Despite intensive efforts by the Karnataka Congress to quell the simmering dissidence, three of its 79 MLAs were missing at the meeting called by the party on Friday at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru. Disgruntled leaders – Umesh Jadhav, Ramesh Jarikholi, Mahesh Kumathali – are believed to be at Mumbai hotel under BJP’s radar. Congress leader said Siddaramaiah he will send notice to absentees, seeking an explanation. The former chief minister said will also speak to the Congress high command about the matter. Congress legislator Jarkiholi is believed to be upset with his party after he was dropped from Kumaraswamy cabinet on December 22.

Former chief minister Siddaramaih has asked Satish Jarkiholi to call up his brother but it doesn’t seem to have produced results. Satish Jarkiholi is the Karnataka Forest and Environment Minister.

The Congress party had issued a whip that any legislator who fails to turn up for the meeting will be expelled from the party and will face action under the anti-defection law. Meanwhile, BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa has dismissed allegations that his party was indulging in poaching to topple the HD Kumaraswamy.

The BJP MLAs from Karnataka were also flying back from a Manesar, where they were staying from the past few days. Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress leaders staged a protest at Bengaluru’s Maurya Circle against alleged horse trading attempts by the BJP. Senior leaders BK Hariprasad, Easwar Khendre, UT Khader, HK Patil were present at the demonstration.

The poaching speculations peaked after two independent MLAs – R Shankar (Ranebennur) and H Nagesh (Mulabagal) – withdrew their support to the Congress-JDS coalition in Karnataka. The Congress-JDS coalition in Karnataka has 118 lawmakers in the 224-member Karnataka assembly.