New Delhi, Jul 28
As Karnataka’s tryst with the trust vote continues, fresh turns continue to keep the political drama alive.
A day before new Bhara-tiya Janata Party Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa seeks the trust vote in the Assembly to prove his majority and six days after another trust vote toppled the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) Government, Karnataka Assembly Spea-ker KR Ramesh Kumar on Sunday disqualified 14 more rebel MLAs under the anti-defection law till the end of the Assembly term in 2023.
Eleven Congress MLAs and three JD (S) lawmakers faced the axe from the Speaker, who pronounced his ruling at a hasty news conference. The total number of disqualified Congress MLAs is now 14.
The Speaker’s action is unlikely to reverse the fortunes of the Yediyurappa Government. The absence of the errant MLAs would reduce the effective strength of the House, rendering the confidence vote no particular hurdle for the BJP.
Twenty MLAs had been absent during the Tuesday trust vote — there were 17 “rebels” and one legislator each from the Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party, along with an Independent, kept away.
The effective strength of the 224-member Assembly, excluding the Speaker, who has a casting vote in case of a tie, is 207. The magic figure required will be 104.
BJP, with the support of one Independent, has 106 members. Congress has 66 along with the nominated MLA. JD(S) has 34. The lone BSP member has been expelled by the party for not voting for the Kumara-swamy Government.
Through the drama chasing the Karnataka political landscape in the past three weeks, Ramesh Kumar has proven particularly unruffled, maintaining resolve in the face of blames by the BJP and even a Supreme Court order.
“I have used my judicial conscience… I am 100% hurt,” he said on Sunday, when asked about allegations about his conduct in the entire stalemate.
Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify the MLAs in one fell sweep comes in the backdrop of indications from the BJP that it would be mulling a no-confidence against him if he does not voluntarily give up the Speaker’s post when the Assembly meets on Monday.
Kumar said he took the action based on the petitions moved by the Congress and JD(S) to disqualify the rebel MLAs, who had also submitted resignations as Assembly members and were absent during the trust vote sought by the HD Kumaraswamy headed Government, leading to its downfall.
He said he had rejected the request by the rebel MLAs to give him four weeks more to appear before him on the issues of their resignations and disqualification plea against them.
The speaker had made it clear when he disqualified three rebel MLAs earlier that a member disqualified under the anti-defection law cannot contest or get elected till the end of the term of the present House, a contention which has been challenged by the BJP, rebel MLAs and several legal experts.
Reading out the names of errant MLAs, the speaker said, “they cease to be MLAs with immediate effect till the expiry of the 15th assembly (in 2023),” adding, “with responsibility and fear I have taken this decision.”
“The way I am being pressurised mentally as speaker to deal with all these things, I am pushed into a sea of depression,’ said an emotional Kumar. The disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, B.C. Patil, Shivram Hebbar, S.T. Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, Roshan Baig, Munirathna, K. Sudhakar and M.T.B. Nagaraj and Shrimant Patil (all Congress). Other party MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and Shankar were disqualified on Thursday. JD(S) members who faced action are: Gopalaiah, A.H. Vishwanath and Narayana Gowda.
The BJP slammed the Speaker’s action, calling it “unfair and violative of the law” which, it said, had been taken “yielding to the pressure from a party”.
“It is a motivated and defective order,” said senior BJP leader Govind Karjol, adding, the rebels would challenge it in the Supreme Court, where they were certain to “get justice.”
The MLAs had quit on their own and their resignations should have been accepted, Karjol said.
Karnataka Congress welcomed the Speaker’s decision to disqualify the rebel MLAs. The party has called a meeting of its legislative wing ahead of the trust vote on Monday.
Congress legislature party leader Siddarmaiah, in a tweet, called the speaker’s decision as “a victory for democracy”.
The speaker justified the timing of his order, just a day before the session, saying he had do it in view of the assembly meeting on Monday, where the “specific agenda” was to take up the motion of confidence and pass the crucial appropriation bill. On the move by the BJP to subject him to the no-confidence motion, he said, “Let it come. You will see how I will behave. I will be in the chair…I will discharge my duties…let’s see what happens..”
He said he had also received a complaint against expelled BSP MLA Mahesh, who skipped the trust vote process on Tuesday violating a directive from the party to vote for the Kumaraswamy government. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in its order on Wednesday last gave the assembly speaker the freedom to decide on the resignation of the 15 MLAs within such time-frame as considered appropriate by him. It had also ruled that the rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to attend the assembly proceedings. The Congress and the JD(S) had sought disqualification under the anti-defection law of the rebel lawmakers who, however, were undeterred by it and skipped the assembly proceedings during the crucial confidence vote Tuesday. Yediyurappa was sworn in as chief minister for a fourth time on Friday in a sudden twist to the protracted high voltage political drama with a big challenge to manage numbers staring him in the face.
Shortly after taking the oath, Yediyurappa had said he would move a motion of confidence in the assembly on July 29 to prove his majority, apparently confident of winning it with the expectation that 16 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs may abstain as they did on Tuesday last, giving him the edge. The Wire (With PTI inputs)