Senior Congress leaders on Sunday accused the BJP of hatching a conspiracy to topple the party's coalition government in Karnataka with the JD(S), in the backdrop of 12 MLAs resigning on Saturday.
"The BJP is doing it. It is their money-power that is responsible for the present turmoil. The BJP is luring the MLAs to join them. They are offering money to the MLAs and exploiting their displeasure over denial of ministerial posts," former Karnataka chief minister and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah told reporters here amid speculation that nine more legislators would quit the party.
He wondered why Congress's Ramalinga Reddy, a former state minister and a seven-time MLA from BTM Layout, chose to resign.
"I told Ramalinga Reddy that we could not make him a minister the first time but in the second reshuffle, he would get a cabinet berth. That was the high-command's decision. He had agreed, but what happened later is not known to me," the Congress Legislative Party leader in the state said.
All hell broke loose after the induction of Independent legislator H Nagesh and the lone MLA of the Karnataka Pragnyavanthara Janata Party, R Shankar, into the state cabinet on June 14, resulting in the rebellion.
Siddaramaiah defended the decision of the ruling coalition partners -- the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular).
He said there were many aspirants for one minister's post from the Congress quota and the party decided to give it to the Independent MLA instead.
According to the arrangement agreed upon at the time of government formation, the Congress was supposed to have 22 and the JD(S) 12 ministers.
Both the coalition partners had decided to accommodate the two MLAs, instead of their own partymen, in a desperate bid to save the government.
To a question, Siddaramaiah said he had spoken to Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who is scheduled to return from the US later in the day. However, he added that there would be no meeting between the chief minister and himself on Sunday.
Former Union minister and senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge too blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the political turmoil in Karnataka.
"The (BJP-led) Centre is directly involved in the turmoil. The BJP is trying to kill democracy. The Congress will not tolerate it," he told reporters here.
On the speculation that he could be appointed as the chief minister to quell the dissidence, Kharge said the rumours were fed to the press and emphasised that he wanted the coalition government to continue.
State Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar said the BJP was posing as if it did not know anything.
"They are acting as if they are ignorant and innocent about the development. The BJP is saying it does not know anything. It is well known who is playing the game here. We know how many rounds of meetings have taken place and with whom. Nobody can hide these things," he told reporters.
He wondered how the BJP, which had been saying that it would not be able to form the government in the southern state, had now come forward to stake claim.
To a question on whether he would extend support to the government if the dissidents backed Siddaramaiah or Kharge as the chief minister, Shivakumar said he would never stab Kumaraswamy in the back, after giving him his word that he would continue to hold the top post for five years.
"There is no question of backstabbing Kumaraswamy. I do not know what the Congress and the JD(S) would do. We have already said that Kumaraswamy will be the chief minister for five years," he said.
Shivakumar, who met JD(S) supremo and former prime minister H D Deva Gowda over the issue, said he hoped that the turmoil would end soon and the government would continue.
"I met H D Deve Gowda. The reasons are obvious. All our senior leaders are meeting today. We will take certain decisions," the Congress leader said.