Congress – JD (S) Kumaraswamy led Karnataka government earned a few more hours of life after assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar adjourned trust vote proceedings to Tuesday. The Speaker, however, set an evening deadline for the conclusion of trust vote by 6 a.m. but indicated that if the rebel MLAs fail to appear before him he would be constrained to move further on the disqualification plea of the Congress.
The rebels MLAs, holed up in a Mumbai resort, have sought four weeks’ time to respond to the notice issued by the Speaker. They have sought time to consult lawyers before responding to the notice.
Now it remains to be seen as to how the Speaker responds to the request of the rebel MLAs.
Last night, the HD Kumaraswamy led coalition government earned a few more hours to target the BJP and prove beyond doubt to the people that it was the opposition party that was behind the rebellion of the MLAs now holed up in a Mumbai resort.
Speaker after speaker from the treasury benches highlighted this aspect during an acrimonious sitting that went late into the night. A little before midnight, the Speaker adjourned the house for Tuesday morning with a deadline of completion of trust vote by 6 p.m.
The ruling coalition strategy behind prolonging the inevitable, loss in trust vote as it clearly does not have the numbers with 15 MLAs abstaining, is to deny the ‘defectors’ the spoils of office should the possible BJP government decide to induct them into ministry. The Speaker has clarified that the coalition legislative party leaders can issue and enforce the whip on their MLAs.
State water resources minister and senior Congress leader DK Shivakumar had on Monday night declared that all the MLAs defying the party stand in the assembly would be disqualified. In fact, the coalition party leaders had pressed the Speaker to take up the disqualification issue before the trust vote.
The disqualification is being pressed upon to send out a stern warning to Karnataka Congress and JD (S) MLAs as also to party MLAs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan where a similar BJP offensive is being feared.
Speaker KR Ramesh has summoned all the rebel MLAs at 11 a.m., to give them an opportunity to explain and take an appropriate decision, should the coalition legislative party leaders formally complain about the whip being violated by anyone. If they fail to appear today, then the Speaker would be constrained to move further on a Congress petition seeking disqualification of the rebel MLAs.
Interestingly, the rebel MLAs have sought four weeks’ time to respond to the notice issued by the Speaker, saying that they need time to consult lawyers.
Meanwhile, all eyes will also be on the Supreme Court which may take up Karnataka related cases on Tuesday. Two independent MLAs had moved to Supreme Court seeking a direction to state assembly to conclude trust vote. There are also petitions from the Congress and Janata Dal (S) on the right of the political parties to issue a whip.
Interestingly, Karnataka assembly speaker has already said that the political parties have a right to issue whips to their members.
KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao told media persons on Monday night that the Speaker had upheld the sanctity of the whip and said it was applicable as per the 10th schedule of the Constitution. The SC interim order in no way protected the rebel MLAs if they violate the whip, Gundu Rao said welcoming the Speaker’s order on the issue.
The Speaker had issued notices to the 15 rebel MLAs, under Rule 7 of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (Disqualification of members on the ground of defection) Rules, 1986 based on a petition by Congress Legislative Party leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao. They had sought the disqualification of the MLAs under the 10th schedule of the Constitution. The Speaker sought the reply of the MLAs within three days in the notice dated July 18. A fresh deadline was issued on Monday to meet the Speaker on Tuesday at 11 a.m.
If they fail to do so, the Speaker will be constrained to proceed further on the petition.
Senior Congress leader G Parameswara also welcomed the decision of the Speaker to legitimise the legislature party leaders’ authority to impose whips on party legislators. “This is what we demanded and is as per the anti-defection law,” he said. He added, “Those who are lured to vote against their party and government will face disqualification.”
Now the import of this, in the case of the fall of the Karnataka government, is clear and is a message to potential defectors in other states, where the Congress is in power. The Congress has at present three governments, in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab.
What disqualification of the MLAs will do is that it will make it difficult for the BJP to induct them into cabinet or give them ministerial berths in Karnataka. How the MLAs view the prospect of losing MLA position remains to be seen.
If the truant Karnataka MLAs are disqualified, like 18 AIADMK, ruling party, MLAs were disqualified for defying party whip in Tamil Nadu assembly, they will have to face elections again if they want to enter the assembly.
In Tamil Nadu most of the disqualified MLAs lost in the recently held bye-elections held along with the Lok Sabha general elections.
Other than working on getting the rebel MLAs disqualified, the coalition leaders are using the proceedings to paint the BJP as the villain.
Many Congress MLAs held aloft photographs of BJP leaders with the defectors and were also present with them at the aircraft in which they were ferried to Mumbai. The MLAs were showing these as the proof of BJP’s involvement in the whole affair.
KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao also alleged that “the BJP is spending Rs 1000 crore to poach our MLAs”.
Prof PS Jayaramu, political analyst, said “leave alone politicians, even the man on the street has become sick and tired of the antics of the politicians.”