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Can’t act at lightning speed: Karnataka Speaker

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jul 12, 2019, 3:29 am IST
Updated : Jul 12, 2019, 3:29 am IST

The arrival of the 10 rebel lawmakers in Bengaluru Thursday evening to submit their resignations afresh to the Speaker was dramatic to say the least.

K. R. Ramesh Kumar, Karnataka Speaker
 K. R. Ramesh Kumar, Karnataka Speaker

Bengaluru: In a move that could have far reaching consequences on the future of the JD(S)-Congress coalition government in the state and could even lead to a confrontation with the Supreme Court, Assembly Speaker K. Ramesh Kumar on Thursday ruled out taking any decision in haste on the resignations of the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs, asserting that he needs time to study if they had resigned voluntarily, without any coercion.  

Mr Ramesh Kumar made this announcement at a press conference soon after meeting 10 rebel Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) rebel legislators who flew in from Mumbai Thursday evening to submit fresh resignations after the Speaker had ruled that their earlier resignations were not in order.

“I will hold a personal hearing with every legislator on a day to be announced soon before taking a call on their resignations,” he said.  

Earlier in the day, the apex court had asked the Speaker to decide “forthwith” on Thursday about the resignation of 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) coalition MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the decision taken by the Speaker has to be intimated on Friday, when the court takes up the matter again.  

“Court has asked me to come to a decision, I have written to them (SC) about the word ‘forthwith’ they have said, I am unable to understand what to decide as the Constitution says something else. So I have given them (MLAs) time (to appear before me). Should I have worked at lightning speed? For whose sake? What about the rules, the people? I only live by the Constitution... I am not acting in haste. My obligation is to the people of this state and the Constitution… The process is not about who is to be saved and who is to be persecuted. That is not my job as a Speaker,” he said.

Rebel MLAs brought with them empty letter heads on which they wrote their resignations in their own handwriting and handed them over to the Speaker after recording their signatures in his presence. This became necessary as the Speaker had earlier observed that of the total 13 resignation letters submitted by Congress and JD(S) MLAs, only five were found to be in the prescribed format.

“MLAs have submitted resignation in right format now… I will have to examine whether resignations are voluntary and genuine,” the Speaker said, and added, “I will have to think all night”.

Asserting he will abide by rules, Speaker Kumar said he will take a “just decision which may be of convenience to some and inconvenience to some.”

The arrival of the 10 rebel lawmakers in Bengaluru Thursday evening to submit their resignations afresh to the Speaker was dramatic to say the least.

Around 11 am, the Supreme Court directed them to appear before the Karnataka Assembly Speaker before 6 pm. They then left for Mumbai Airport where two special flights were ready to fly them to Bengaluru.   

Due to inclement weather, the flights could take off from Mumbai only around 3:30 pm and they reached Bengaluru around 5:30 pm where they boarded a private bus that took them to Vidhana Soudha.

The zero-traffic facility provided by the cops however ensured that the rebel MLAs zipped through the busy roads of Bengaluru to reach the Soudha at 5:59 pm. After spending about 30 minutes with the Speaker and submitting their resignations afresh, the legislators returned to Mumbai by the same aircraft.

After meeting the rebel legislators, Mr Ramesh Kumar told reporters that there was no need for the legislators to move the apex court seeking a direction to accept their resignations submitted on July 6 in his absence.

He made it clear that it was his duty to check whether the letters were genuine and had been submitted voluntarily without any pressure. This was mandatory as per Article 190 of the Constitution and for this personal hearing of every MLA was necessary.  

“I have led a clean public life in the last 40 years and I do not want to do anything which will tarnish my image. I will not act in haste unless I am convinced myself. I am not under anybody’s obligation but to the Constitution,” he remarked.

There have been instances in some states where resignations were kept pending for years together.

“I do not want to make any mistake. The media is free to tell me if I am wrong. At the same time you tell if I am right. Let me make it clear to all that I am no way responsible for the current political instability prevailing in Karnataka nor I am interested in the outcome,” he said.

Meanwhile, sources said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad took Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah to task and asked him to bring the fluid political situation under control, failing which the party would have to take remedial steps. Mr Azad said this reportedly after he got the impression that diehard supporters of Mr Siddaramaiah were the ones creating problems for the party. He told the former CM firmly that it was his responsibility to convince the rebels to withdraw their resignations.

Sources claimed that MLA R. Ramalinga Reddy has softened his stand on quitting the Congress after a meeting with Mr Azad. If this is true, it is a major breakthrough for the Congress and will help the party prevent his daughter and Jayanagar MLA Sowmya Reddy from quitting. Earlier, there were rumours that she was planning to follow her father and resign from the Assembly.  

Interestingly, another rebel MLA, Roshan Baig, met the Speaker in connection with his resignation. However, after meeting Mr Azad, he too softened his stand vis-a-vis the Congress. Sources said that chances of him returning to the party fold cannot be ruled out.

Tags: karnataka speaker, karnataka crisis
Location: India, Karnataka, Bengaluru