Karnataka budget day fixed, ruling BJP braces for rebels' strike

Bangalore, Jan 22 (IANS) Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar Tuesday continued his preparations to present his maiden budget Feb 8 amid indications that Energy Minister Shobha Karnadlaje and several other loyalists of former BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa will quit WEdnesday to pull down the government.

Karandlaje, the lone woman minister in the Bharatiya Janta Party government, told reporters here Tuesday that "she was leaving the energy ministry with a heavy heart".

She thanked the officers and staff of the energy department and the media for their support to her all these years, in a clear indication that she was all set to quit the ministry Wednesday, as planned by Yeddyurappa.

However she chose to act coy, like Yeddyurappa has been doing now after repeatedly threatening for several weeks that he would oust the Shettar government, on when she will quit the ministry.

"I have not taken any decision but anyway you will come to know, isn't it," she said.

Nehru Olekar, another BJP legislator and staunch follower of Yeddyurappa, continued to maintain that about 20 ruling party legislators, including at least four ministers, will quit Wednesday.

Apart from Karandlaje, the other ministers, whose names Olekar mentioned, are C. M. Udasi (public works), M. P. Renukacharya (excise) and Murugesh Nirani (industries).

While Udasi has been keeping everyone guessing on his plans, Renukacharya and Nirani appeared to be not in a mood to quit to oblige Yeddyurappa.

Both have been sticking to the stand that they have not taken any decision on leaving BJP.

Yeddyurappa has called a meeting of BJP ministers and legislators supporting him here Wednesday to finalise the resignations and to decide whether to sumit them to the speaker K.G. Bopaiah or Governor H. R. Bhardwaj, according to Olekar.

Yeddyurappa, BJP's first chief minister in the state who quit the party and the assembly Nov 30 to head Karnataka Janata Party (KJP), is against allowing Shettar to present the budget as that could help the ruling party in the assembly elections due in May.

Shettar became chief minister last July and is heading the BJP's third government since it came to power in the state for the first time in May 2008. He also holds finance portfolio.

Shettar is confident of presenting the budget.

As part of his efforts to show it is business as usual for him, the chief minister Tuesday met farmers' representatives to know what they expect from the budget.

Shettar has already said the budget will be pro-people and farmers' friendly.

If the resignations come through, the Shettar government will be reduced to a minority as the BJP's numbers will come down from 117 in the 225-member assembly to less than 100.

Of the 225 members, 224 are elected and one is nominated.

The Congress has 71 members and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) 26. There are seven Independents while three seats are vacant.

The Congress, the JD-S and Yeddyurappa have all been contending that the Shettar government has in effect lost majority in the assembly and hence has no moral right to present the budget.

Their contention is based on the fact that 15 BJP assembly members have been openly backing Yeddyurappa and his new party since Dec 9.

At least four more assembly members have also been openly associating with the another party founded by B. Sriramulu, a former BJP minister and follower of former BJP minister and jailed mining baron G. Janardhana Reddy.

(V.S. Karnic can be contacted at vs.karnic@ians.in)

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