The Congress-JD(S) combine has the support of only 100 MLAs (excluding the Speaker), indicating which way the trust vote on Monday is likely to go.
Bengaluru: A day before Karnataka’s new chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa seeks a trust vote in the state Assembly, Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar on Sunday disqualified 14 Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators who resigned from the House, and also barred them from contesting polls till the term of the present Assembly ends in 2023.
With this, the total number of disqualified MLAs has risen to 17, bringing down the Assembly’s strength to 207 and the halfway mark to 104. The disqualification could therefore come as a blessing in disguise for the BJP as it has the support of 106 MLAs (including one Independent), ensuring it has crossed the halfway mark. The Congress-JD(S) combine has the support of only 100 MLAs (excluding the Speaker), indicating which way the trust vote on Monday is likely to go.
Last week, Mr Ramesh Kumar had disqualified three MLAs — Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumatalli, both of the Congress, and Ranebenn-ur KPJP MLA R. Shankar (who later merged with the Congress) for violating the whip issued by their party.
Addressing a hurriedly-called press conference on Sunday, the Speaker said Congress Legislature Pa-rty leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao had filed four petitions aga-inst the rebel MLAs seeking their disqualification since they had violated the whip issued by the party.
Similarly, former chief minister H.D. Kumarasw-amy had filed another petition seeking similar action against three rebel JD(S) legislators. All legislators were issued noti-ces to personally appear on specified dates; but none of them turned up. After going through several judgments, the Speaker said he had decided to disqualify Pratap Gouda Patil (Maski), B.C. Patil (Hirekerur), Shiva-ram Hebbar (Yellapur), S.T. Somashekar (Yesvan-tpur), Byrathi Basavaraj (KR Puram), Anand Singh (Vijaynagar), Roshan Baig (Shivajinagar), N. Muniratna (Raja Rajes-hwari Nagar), Dr K. Sudhakar (Chikballapur), Srimanth Patil (Kaga-wad), M.T.B. Nagaraj (Hosakote), all Congress MLAs; and A.H. Vishwa-nath (Hunsur), Narayana Gowda (KR Pete) and N. Gopalaiah (Mahalakshmipuram) of the JD(S).
Asked if the disqualified legislators can challenge his decision in a court of law, the Speaker said: “I have done my job, I am not worried (about consequences). I will be vindicated if the court upholds my decision and I will stand corrected if my decision is changed. I have discharged my duty in the given situation and not acted under any pressure.”
Replying to a question on the BJP’s reported plan to move a motion of no-confidence against him, he said: “Whatever I have done is purely as per the law, let the next Speaker ponder over it,” dropping a broad hint that he plans to step down as Speaker on Monday.
The Speaker made it clear there are only two items on the agenda of the session on Monday — one, the CM seeking a vote of confidence; and two, the debate and voting on the Finance Bill which needs to be passed by Tuesday.
Reacting to the verdict disqualifying them, Hunsur JD(S) rebel MLA A.H. Vishwanath remarked that the Speaker had announced his decision in a hurry and it seemed like he was under great pressure to pronounce his decision at the earliest. “We will definitely question this decision in the Supreme Court,” he said.
Another rebel MLA, Mr Pratap Gouda Patil, said they had expected this decision after the Speaker disqualified three legislators last week. This was not the end for them as they have decided to question the Speaker’s decision in the Supreme Court, he added.
Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, in a tweet, hailed the Speaker’s decision, describing it as “a victory for democracy”. In another tweet, he said the order will send a strong message to elected representatives across the country who might fall into the “BJP’s trap”.
The BJP attacked the Speaker’s action, calling it “unfair and violative of the law”, which, it said, had been taken “yielding to pressure from a party”.
“It is a motivated and defective order,” said senior BJP leader Govind Karjol, adding that the rebels will challenge it in the Supreme Court, where they were certain to “get justice”.
Meanwhile, chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa said he was confident about proving his majority in the Assembly on Monday. He also said that the Finance Bill prepared by the previous Congress-JD(S) government would be tabled by him in the Assembly on Monday without any changes. “The Finance Bill (appropriation bill) needs to be passed urgently as otherwise we will not be able to draw funds even to pay salaries,” he said. “So tomorrow, after moving the confidence motion, we will first take up the Finance Bill... I have not even changed a comma or full stop in it. I will be tabling the Finance Bill prepared by the (previous) Congress-JD(S) government,” he added.
In a related development, JD(S) patriarch H.D. Deve Gowda said the future of his party’s alliance with the Congress would depend on the decision of the high command of the grand old party. The two parties had struck an alliance after the May 2018 Assembly polls to frustrate the BJP’s attempts to seize power, but the coalition government headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy could last for only 14 months.