With proceedings in the Karnataka assembly descending into chaos over a confidence motion moved Thursday by Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy who has been battling dissidence to save his government, and Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar still undecided on the resignations of the rebel Congress and JD (S) MLAs, Governor Vajubhai Vala stepped in, directing Kumaraswamy to prove his majority on the floor of the House by 1.30 pm Friday.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, copied to the Speaker who had earlier adjourned the House until Friday, the Governor said “the fact that 15 members have met me and tendered their resignations and coupled with 2 members have withdrawn their support and other attendant circumstances do prima facie indicate that you have lost majority/confidence of the House”.
“In my capacity as the Head of the State, I had not intervened in the matter having regard to the fact that the House was called and Trust vote has been moved. However, it has been reported to me that the proceedings of the House on 18-07-2019 for vote of confidence has been stalled and consequently adjourned without reaching any finality. This cannot go on in a democratic set-up governed by the Constitution of India,” the Governor said.
He had earlier asked the Speaker to complete the confidence motion process by the end of the day. This was after the Opposition BJP, which claimed that the ruling coalition was trying to buy time to build up its numbers, requested him to direct the Speaker to complete the process Thursday itself.
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As the Speaker adjourned the House until Friday, BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa declared that his party members would stay in the House overnight, and till the time the trust vote was decided. He said the confidence motion was not even discussed properly and other issues were brought in by the ruling coalition members to delay the trust vote. “There has been a breach of constitutional framework… To protest against this, we will sleep here itself,” he said.
The ruling coalition strength is 117— Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker. With the support of the two independents, the Opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House.
If the resignations of the 15 MLAs — 12 from Congress and 3 from JD(S) — are accepted, the ruling coalition’s tally will come down to 101 (excluding the Speaker), reducing the 14 month-old Kumaraswamy government to a minority.
In another setback for the coalition, Congress MLA Shrimant Patil left the flock Wednesday night to reach Mumbai Thursday. Patil claimed he had been admitted to a Mumbai hospital following chest pain.
In light of the Supreme Court direction a day earlier which barred the rebel MLAs from being compelled to attend the trust vote, the Speaker said he would consult legal experts such as the state Advocate General on the path ahead.
Kumaraswamy said the rebel MLAs had cast doubts about the coalition government across the country and “we have to tell the truth… the entire nation is watching the developments unfolding in Karnataka”.
As soon as the motion was moved, Yeddyurappa stood up and said the trust vote process should be completed in a single day.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah had moved a point of order saying powers of political parties to control their legislators — as provided by the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) — would be affected if the Supreme Court order is interpreted as barring issuance of the whip to the 15 rebel MLAs.
“It is the right of a political party to issue whip to its legislators and it is clear in the Tenth Schedule. When the tenth Schedule of the Constitution exists, then we have to issue a whip to party members. My point is that if the MLAs do not come to the legislature for the trust vote because they are influenced by the SC order, it will be a loss for a constitutionally-appointed government. Till this is settled, the trust vote process must be set aside,’’ Siddaramaiah said.
Other Congress legislators also backed the demand for clarity on the Supreme Court order which said that the 15 rebel MLAs must not be compelled to attend the trust vote proceedings. The Supreme Court left the acceptance or rejection of the resignations of the MLAs to the discretion of the Speaker.
State Law Minister Krishna Byregowda said: “Please decide whether they (those who have resigned) are members or not. Without deciding this, it is not correct to go ahead with the trust vote.’
The Speaker said a serious issue regarding the functioning of the assembly had been raised by the Supreme Court order. “I am worried because I am a respondent (in the SC case) and the one who has to make a decision on whip violation,’’ he said.