Congress-JD (S) coalition taking fight down to the wire

With a list of over 20 MLAs still to speak in the trust vote motion moved by CM HD Kumaraswamy, the Speaker made it very clear that he would not be hurried by any directive or Opposition demands

Karnataka Legislative Assembly (file photo)
Karnataka Legislative Assembly (file photo)

KV Lakshmana

The one question that is begging an answer is why the Congress- Janata Dal government led by HD Kumaraswamy, clearly short of numbers after rebels parked themselves in Mumbai, is prolonging the inevitable.

From the Cong-JD (S) perspective, the Congress move to seek opinion of the Supreme Court on its earlier decision allowing the rebels to opt out of the trust vote was to highlight the point that it rendered the right of political parties to issue whips ineffective.

Both the JD (S) and the Congress have moved the Supreme Court, on separate issues, that will be taken up on Monday in the apex court, when the trust vote proceedings resume in the Karnataka assembly.

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy moved the SC on governor Vaju Bhai Vala’s directives to him on trust vote, which was beyond the powers of the governor. While the Congress, through its KPCC leader Gundu Rao, sought a clear-cut view of the Supreme Court on the right of the political parties to issue whips to their members.

Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar stood firm on his ground that no one could dictate to him as to how to run the house or proceedings and ignored the two deadlines set by Karnataka governor Vaju Bhai Vala to conclude the floor test. Earlier deadline directed the assembly to conclude the trust vote by 1.30 p.m. and after this was ignored, the governor sent another directive in a letter to the CM to finish trust vote by 6 p.m.

With a list of over 20 speakers still to participate in the trust vote discussion, on a motion moved by chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, the Speaker made it very clear that he would not be hurried by any directive or opposition demands. On Friday, the Speaker adjourned the house for Monday after 6 p.m saying he could not sit any longer. Both the Speaker and Chief Minister had on Friday said the trust vote would be completed on Monday.

Clearly, there does appear some game plan of the government to prolong the trust vote, in which it was certain to lose. What it really wants to do, in the interim, is to press for disqualification of the rebel MLAs, for defying the whip it has issued for all its MLAs to be present and vote for the trust motion. A top Congress leader said that even if they lose, they want to send out a strong signal to the MLAs that this kind of defection will not be tolerated.

Given the numbers as of now, there is no doubt that the Kumaraswamy government will not pass the muster on the floor of the house. At present, with 15 MLAs of the coalition – 12 of the Congress and 3 of the JD (S) – away and two independents pledging support to the BJP, the numbers are stacked up against the government. But if the MLAs are disqualified, then they cannot be immediately rewarded with cabinet berths, that could be offered to them.

The disqualification threat could lead to change of heart among a few rebels and a handful of them switching sides even at this late juncture could save the day for the coalition. Highly improbable at this stage and the rebels will not back down after so much has happened, felt a Congress leader.

Prof PS Jayaramu, political analyst, foresaw three scenarios – first one, the government falling and BJP staking claim and forming the government. Second is the government surviving – very remote and almost impossible. But if the assembly fails to have a trust vote concluded on Monday, there is a strong possibility that the governor could send another report to the Central government recommending the dismissal of the government and imposition of president’s rule.

This third scenario is possible too, Prof Jayaramu said, adding that “by and large the common people even those who are not BJP-minded are feeling that this government must go.”

Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kallappa said that it was not proper to declare that Congress-JD(S) does not have the numbers. “Test of strength is on the floor of the house,” he said adding that anything could happen in politics.

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