Karnataka BJP rebels plan court action for speaker's return

Bangalore, Jan 24 (IANS) Rebels in Karnataka's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Thursday said they would petition the high court to secure the speaker's presence in Bangalore.

"We will wait for two more days. If the speaker does not return to Bangalore, we plan to file a habeas corpus petition in the high court to secure his presence," rebel BJP legislator Nehru Olekar told reporters, taking the battle with the ruling party to another low.

Olekar is one of the 13 BJP rebels whose plan to quit the assembly Wednesday did not come through as speaker K.G. Bopaiah was not in his office and neither his office nor any ruling party leader could say where he was.

The rebels include ministers C.M. Udasi and Shobha Karandlaje, who quit the Jagadish Shettar ministry Wednesday. They asserted that they had informed Bopaiah Tuesday that they would meet him Wednesday to submit their resignation letters.

"The speaker is either absconding or has been kidnapped at the behest of the chief minister or deputy chief ministers," he alleged. Karnataka has two deputy chief ministers.

"We fear that he might have been kidnapped as there is no information about his whereabouts even after wide publicity in the media about his absence," Olekar claimed.

The rebels waited in vain in Bopaiah's chamber for over an hour Wednesday with their resignation letters.

Later, they met Governor H.R. Bhardwaj and sought his intervention to make the speaker immediately accept their resignations.

Udasi, who was public works minister, told reporters that copies of resignation letters have been emailed to the speaker.

"We have also emailed the speaker a letter signed by all 13 of us seeking appointment with him," he said.

Udasi said the fax machine at the speaker's office has been shut down. "We tried to fax a letter to the speaker but got the message that the machine has been shut down," he added.

Udasi said it was for the first time in Karnataka's history that no one seemed to know the speaker's whereabouts.

Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R. Ashoka dismissed as "false" speculation that he had late Tuesday "escorted" the speaker to the Bangalore airport.

"It is baseless," he told reporters.

Karandlaje, who was energy minister and quit the ministry along with Udasi Wednesday, had claimed that "our information is that a cabinet minister had escorted the speaker to the airport".

The 13 legislators are supporters of former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa who has quit the party and the assembly to head the Karnataka Janata Party. These legislators want to join the party to fight the assembly elections due in May.

On Thursday too, the speaker's whereabouts continued to be a mystery with speculation ranging from his being in Nepal to his staying near his hometown in Madikeri, the main town of Kodagu district, about 250 km from Bangalore.

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