The horse trading in Karnataka could well be underway, as there is a high octane battle underway between the BJP on one side, and the JD(S) and the Congress on the other. As all of them want to reach the magic number, the JD(S) chief, Kumaraswamy, publicly charged the BJP of trying to bribe MLA-elects from his party with Rs 100 crore each.
But as the BJP denies and there are charges and counter-charges exchanged, the two people who have suddenly emerged as crucial pieces of the Karnataka puzzle are an independent MLA and the single winner from a small party. R Shankar, a Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) MLA from Ranebennur, and H Nagesh, an independent from Mulbagal could end up deciding who forms the government in Karnataka.
Late last night the Congress announced that the two MLAs had allied with the grand old party. TNM even met Nagesh at Congress leader DK Shivakumar's house, and he pledged his allegiance to the Congress.
It surprised many when, on Wednesday morning, MLA Shankar, who was reportedly with the Congress, reached BS Yeddyurappa's house with BJP leader Eshwarappa.
But the twists didn't end there. By Wednesday evening, Shankar reached the Congress office and declared that he had left the BJP camp!
Speaking to the media, Shankar said that he was not going to side with the BJP and that he had pledged his loyalty to the Congress.
“I am not with the BJP. I will ally with the Congress only,” Shankar reiterated.
JN Ganesh, the MLA from Kambli has been assigned the task of monitoring Shankar’s movements.
“There have been so many rumours that Shankar and Anand Singh are going with the BJP. That's not true,” Ganesh said. Anand Singh is the MLA-elect from Vijayanagara, and had switched from the BJP to Congress before the elections.
But at the BJP office, it was a different story. KS Eshwarappa confirmed that Shankar had indeed jumped ship, but indicated that he may come back to the BJP.
"Ask him why he went to the Congress. Anyway, first he was here, then he went there and he may come back here," Eshwarappa said.
Mulbagal MLA H Nagesh is a former Congress member from the constituency. Nagesh was a member of the Congress party and also an aspirant for the ticket from Mulbagal. However, the Congress decided to give the ticket once again to MLA G Manjunath.
However, after the Karnataka High Court found Manjunath guilty of lying about his caste, the Congress was not allowed to contest polls from Mulbagal. By then Nagesh had decided to contest as an independent with support from the Congress.
Shankar won from Ranebennur as a candidate of the Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha. In 2013, he had contested as an independent and lost to KB Koliwad by a margin of 6788 votes.
Congress MLAs to be moved to resort
The Congress, which seemed confident of forming a coalition government with JD(S) on Tuesday, became jittery by Wednesday afternoon. Several of its MLAs had not attended the Legislative Party meeting.
Whispers of defections and rumours of horse trading had everyone on the edge.
Soon after, a bus arrived at the park outside KPCC office. However, a few Congress leaders called the move necessary to hold emergency meetings.
“Yes, we are taking MLAs to a resort. If all of us are not together, then it becomes difficult to call emergency meetings,” former Water Resource Minister MB Patil told TNM.
With all MLAs being sent to Eagleton Resort in Bidadi, the big question is whether the Congress will able to keep its house intact.