Congress lawmakers said they would spend the night inside the Karnataka assembly on Thursday, demanding the dismissal of minister KS Eshwarappa and a sedition case against him for his hugely controversial comment on replacing the national flag with a saffron.
Members of Congress remained in the assembly even after it adjourned for the day following protests from opposition party lawmakers who stalled debate in both houses for the second day in a row.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, President Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri and former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa then met with Opposition Leader and Congress Legislature Party Leader Siddaramaiah at the assembly premises and discussed held talks, but there was no breakthrough.
“We tried to convince the leaders of the opposition parties for about two hours. We told them not to sleep here in the assembly. But they have already decided. The president also tried to convince. our best but they didn’t agree. We will try to convince them tomorrow as well,” Mr Yediyurappa said.
Later, Congress leaders from Karnataka including State Unit Leader DK Shivakumar were seen having dinner at the assembly canteen.
Earlier, speaking to reporters outside the assembly, Siddaramaiah accused the BJP and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of disrespecting the national flag, and said the Congress had decided to organize a protest “day and night”, to take the issue to a “logical end”.
Noting that the Governor, who is the constitutional head, should have intervened and given instructions for the dismissal of Mr Eshwarappa, as his remarks amounted to treason, he said: “The Chief Minister also does not take action against Eshwarappa, the RSS implements its covert agenda through Eshwarappa.”
Meanwhile, a provocateur, Mr Eshwarappa, said there was no question of him quitting for any reason, and he is a patriot who went to jail during the emergency period.
“Let them protest, I won’t budge,” he said, and demanded that state Congress leader DK Shivakumar resign, accusing him and his party of having ” abused” the national flag in protest.
The controversy erupted after Mr Eshwarappa said last week that the ‘Bhagwa dhwaj’ (saffron flag) could become the national flag in the future and it could then be flown from the Red Fort.
He had, however, declared that the tricolor was now the national flag and that it should be respected by all.
Seemingly supporting the controversial comment, Chief Minister Bommai said the protests that took place overnight at the assembly were over issues of people, farmers and state interests, but they are ‘a protest based on a misinterpretation of a statement.
“There is nothing wrong with Eshwarappa’s statement, there is nothing in his statement that is against the law. Since they (Congress) have no other problem, they are doing this. For the first time for no reason a night protest is taking place, it’s not a sign of a responsible opposition, they think they will get political profit from it, but they are wrong,” he said.
On Wednesday, the speaker of the assembly had rejected the adjournment motion of Congress demanding the dismissal and the sedition case against Mr. Eshwarappa.
The president also held meetings of the leaders to break the deadlock, but they failed.
The last time the Karnataka assembly saw protests overnight was in July 2019 when then-opposition leader Mr Yediyurappa spent a night with BJP lawmakers to corner the Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition government dragging its feet on a confidence vote.