As two more MLAs quit the beleaguered Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka Wednesday, a BJP delegation led by state party chief B S Yeddyurappa met Governor Vajubhai Vala, requesting him to advise the Speaker to expedite the process of accepting the resignations of all MLAs.
The political crisis also reached New Delhi after 10 Congress and JD(S) MLAs, who quit last week, moved the Supreme Court alleging that Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar is deliberately not accepting their resignations. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said it will hear the petition Thursday.
The fresh exits take the number of legislators who have quit to 16, leaving the ruling coalition staring at the threat of losing majority. If the resignations are accepted by the Speaker, the strength of the coalition will fall to 101 compared to the BJP’s 105 plus two Independents clearing the way for the BJP to seek a trust vote.
Joining 14 MLAs who had quit earlier, Housing minister M T B Nagaraj and the state pollution board chairman K Sudhakar submitted their resignations to the Speaker Wednesday afternoon. This comes a day after Kumar rejected the resignations of nine of 14 MLAs. Both legislators are expected to join other rebel MLAs in Mumbai, where police detained Congress leader D K Shivakumar.
Shivakumar, sent to negotiate with the rebels, was stopped from entering the hotel the MLAs are staying in and was packed off to Bengaluru.
Earlier, the BJP staged a protest against the Speaker for not accepting the resignations of MLAs before a delegation led by Yeddyurappa met the Governor. “…the Speaker is bound to accept the resignations of MLAs who have rendered their resignation, if it is presented in person,’’ Yeddyurappa wrote in a letter to the Governor. He also said the law allows the Speaker to check the veracity of a resignation if it is sent through post or an agent.
“Immediately accepting the resignations is the only constitutional provision left with the Speaker. Despite such clear constitutional mandate, we are shocked to know that the Speaker is giving dates to MLAs to be present in his chamber and postponing the acceptance of the resignations,” he stated.
The BJP has asked the Governor to advise the Speaker to take action regarding the resignations.
Incidentally, the resignations of Nagaraj and Sudhakar, affiliated to senior Congress leader and former chief minister Siddaramaiah, were submitted to the Speaker just after the Congress and JD(S) ended a protest in Bengaluru, where they accused the BJP of holding 10 MLAs hostage in Mumbai as part of its efforts to topple the coalition government in Karnataka.
“Sudhakar, in fact, participated in the protests with Siddaramaiah. We were not expecting him to resign,’’ said a senior Congress leader. It was assumed that the two MLAs would not switch loyalties after they were given positions in the government at the instance of Siddaramaiah. Sudhakar was made chairman of the pollution board barely a month ago to keep him in the party.
Nagaraj said they were quitting due to the frequent interference in their constituencies and ministries by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and his brother H D Revanna. “There is rebellion because MLAs are upset over the actions of Kumaraswamy and his brother Revanna. Local leaders have no control over appointments of even a constable. The CM should take all leaders into confidence while taking decisions. He never talks to us. Let him be the CM but he must change his attitude,” he said.
In the Supreme Court, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi mentioned the petition of the 10 rebel MLAs before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. Rohatgi submitted that the Speaker was “deliberately not acting upon the resignations” and urged the court to hear the matter at the earliest. “Time is of the essence,” he said.
The CJI said it was not possible to take up the matter on Wednesday and said it would be considered on Thursday. Later, the court listed the matter for hearing Thursday before a bench comprising the CJI and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose.
In their petition, the legislators accused the Speaker of acting in a “partisan and malafide manner… to protect the Government in power, which is in a minority”.
The “Chief Minister, despite being reduced to a minority, is refusing to seek a vote of confidence,” said the petition. The plea further said that “as a result of the concerted acts between the Speaker and the government, a minority government, which does not enjoy the confidence of the House, continues in power illegally.”
The rebel MLAs contended that the Speaker’s actions “are arbitrary and unreasonable are violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”. “The resignation was on the issue of principle and in public interest. However, the Hon’ble Speaker, acting in an arbitrary and illegal manner, is seeking to frustrate the said right in favour of the Petitioner. Denial of such a right is destructive of the principles of democracy and hence violative of the basic structure of the Constitution,” stated the plea.
(With ENS in New Delhi)