With the announcement of bypolls on October 21 for 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka, former Congress and JD(S) MLAs of these constituencies, who were disqualified from contesting elections under the anti-defection law for defecting to BJP, are relying on the Supreme Court to cancel their disqualification in order to contest the polls.
The matter is expected to come up in Supreme Court on Monday.
The bypolls were necessitated by disqualification of these legislators by then Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in July this year.
Their absence from the House during the trust vote had led to the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) alliance led by H D Kumaraswamy, and helped the BJP assume power.
Why bypolls are crucial for BJP govt
The bypolls are expected to be an acid test for the BJP government of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who currently has 106 seats in the Assembly, including an Independent. The Opposition combine of Congress and JD(S) has 101 seats in the 224-member Assembly with 17 vacancies. After the bypolls, the strength of the House will be 222, with two seats not going to the polls now. So to get past the halfway mark of 111, the BJP needs to win at least six seats in the by-elections to retain its majority.
Of 15 constituencies going to the bypolls, 12 were represented by the Congress and three by JD(S).
B C Patil, the disqualified MLA from Hirekerur, said: “We have approached the Supreme Court and are hopeful of a favorable order in terms of disqualification from contesting elections. The Speaker’s action was not as per law.”
While Ramesh had disqualified 17 MLAs under the anti-defection law, bypolls will not be held for Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Maski seats on October 21 since 2018 election-related cases are pending in court.
The disqualified MLAs are hoping that the BJP will give tickets to their family members, or people of their choice, to contest the polls in case the Supreme Court decides against interfering with the Speaker’s disqualification orders at an early date before nomination ends.
Read | Maharashtra bypolls 2019
The former legislators went into a huddle soon after the election schedule was announced and reportedly met legal experts and Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, who is travelling to Delhi, PTI reported. They have said they will seek a stay on the election process on Monday, when their petition comes up before the top court.
“On the disqualified MLAs, the court and the EC will decide. Our party is prepared for polls,” PTI quoted BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel as saying. Expressing confidence that BJP will win all 15 seats, he said, “Without challenge, it is not politics.”
Sending out a note of equal confidence, former CM and JD(S) leader Kumarswamy said, “The BJP government of B S Yediyurappa will not last long; that is quite clear. We will not topple the government but the bypolls will result in its fall.”
At a rally in Hosakote, one of the 15 seats going to the bypolls, Congress leader and former CM Siddaramaiah said: “If people have self-respect and pride, they will not allow the rebels to contest and win the bypolls. The matter is in court and we do not know what will happen. The people should teach them (disqualified MLAs) a lesson and send a message to the whole country.”
While Kumaraswamy said his party would contest all seats on its own, Congress leaders suggested that a decision on contesting in a coalition with the JD(S) would be taken by the party high command.
The 15 constituencies going to bypolls are Hirekerur, Yellapur, Yeshwanthpur, Krishnarajpuram, Hospet, Shivajinagar, Chikaballapur, Hosakote, Kagwad, Gokak, Athani and Rannebennur (all won by Congress in 2018) and Hunsur, K R Pet and Mahalakshmi Layout (won by JDS).