If MLAs are ‘horses’, two of them have already sneaked out of the Congress stables. After it was reported on Wednesday that Anand Singh, the MLA-elect from Vijayanagara has decided to go back to the BJP camp – we can now confirm that another MLA has slipped out of the Congress’s hands. Pratapgouda Patil, the MLA-elect who won from Maski constituency, has deserted the Congress ranks, sources confirm.
According a Congress source, Pratapgouda did not board the bus to Eagleton resorts – where the Congress MLA-elects are currently housed – on Wednesday night. Even as the party tried to locate him, he went incommunicado. Hours later, the party came to know that Pratapgouda had taken a flight out of HAL airport in Bengaluru – which can only mean that a private plane was arranged for the Maski MLA. Sources say that the BJP's Somasekhara Reddy engineered this defection.
Sixty three-year-old Pratapgouda Patil was once touted to be the ‘poorest’ MLA in Karnataka, with assets worth just Rs 40 lakh in 2013. However, in the affidavit filed for this election, Pratapgouda declared an income of Rs 17.5 lakh, and total assets (movable and immovable) worth Rs 5.5 crore. His wife, Padmavathi, has assets worth Rs 58.8 lakh. He has declared that he is an agriculturalist, and that his income comes from agriculture, and his salary as an MLA and from other allowances.
'We are very confident as far as our MLAs are concerned. We are in fact planning to send them back to their constituencies for now. The Congress however...Two MLAs are uncertain. One of them is Anand Singh. The other is Pratap Gowda Patil. He went from the resort to HAL Airport at 4.40 am and took a flight out of Bengaluru. As far our next move is concerned, we are not worried," a JD(S) source said.
The MLA-elect won a very hard fought contest in Maski this time around – he defeated BJP’s Basanagowda Turvihal by just 213 votes to retain his seat.
But while he contested and won on a Congress ticket in 2013 and now in 2018, in 2008, he won on a BJP ticket from the same constituency.
Anand Singh meanwhile is a known turncoat. The former minister in the BJP government, Anand Singh had defected to the Congress only in January to get a seat for the Assembly elections. There was high speculation on Wednesday morning when he did not turn up at the Legislature Party meeting of the Congress, and by evening, it was confirmed by sources that he had switched again to support the BJP.
Pratagouda and Anand Singh’s defection comes even as BJP’s Yeddyurappa has taken oath as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, on the back of Governor Vajubhai Vala inviting him as the Legislature Party leader of the single largest party in Karnataka. However, the battle is far from over for the BJP. The party has to prove a majority on the floor of the Assembly within 15 days, as the Governor has pronounced. Further, the fact that the Supreme Court has sought their letter to the Governor on Friday, it is up for question whether that 15-day deadline will be shortened further.
For him to win the floor test, Yeddyurappa needs to cross the halfway mark in the Assembly – that is, he has to get more than half the number of people present and voting to vote in his favour.
While the strength of the Karnataka Assembly is 224, two of the constituencies did not go to the polls and HD Kumaraswamy won from two constituencies and has to resign from one. The strength of the House therefore is 221 currently.
However, the BJP has only 104 MLAs. For them to win the vote, it’s not just enough to ‘make up’ the remaining 8 MLAs to reach the halfway mark of 221 – anti defection laws and the fate of Tamil Nadu MLAs who voted against the whip in Edappadi Palaniswami’s floor test shows that any Congress or JD(S) MLA who votes against their party will be disqualified. What the BJP will therefore be hoping for is that the number of MLAs present and voting comes down – and the formula for that is either 11+2 (get 11 MLAs from Congress and JD(S) to abstain, and get the two independents to vote with them), 13+1 (13 MLAs to abstain and one independent with them) or 15 (to abstain).