Not missing, will resume Jan 28, says Karnataka speaker

Bangalore, Jan 24 (IANS) Hours after the rebels in the state's ruling BJP announced they would petition the high court to secure his presence in Bangalore, Karnataka assembly Speaker K.G. Bopaiah Thursday said he was "not missing or disappeared" and will resume work Jan 28.

Bopaiah said, through a release from his office, that he was attending a private function but did not say where.

The release was issued within hours of Governor H.R. Bhardwaj seeking details of the speaker's tour programme and a threat by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebels to move a habeas corpus petition in the high court.

Bopaiah's absence Wednesday when 13 BJP rebels went to his office here to submit their resignation letters had led to speculation about his whereabouts as his office had no information.

In the release, the speaker said that he was "pained" by reports that he had "disappeared".

On the rebels' claim that they had informed him about submitting the resignation letters Wednesday, Bopaiah said he had only been orally told and there was nothing in writing. "If information was in writing, I would have been in my office," he said.

Governor Bhardwaj sought Bopaiah's tour details as the rebels had met him Wednesday seeking his intervention to secure the speaker's presence in Bangalore and acceptance of their resignation letters immediately.

The rebels are loyalists of former BJP chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa and want to quit the assembly as part of a plan to prevent the BJP government from presenting the budget for 2013-14 as assembly elections are due in May.

Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, who holds the finance portfolio, has fixed Feb 8 for presenting his maiden budget. He became chief minister July last year. The legislature session has been called for Feb 4 to 13.

Earlier Thursday Nehru Olekar, one of the 13 rebels, told reporters: "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."

The rebels include ministers C.M. Udasi and Shobha Karandlaje, who quit the Shettar ministry Wednesday.

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

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

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