Hours after the Supreme Court left it to the discretion of Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to decide on the resignations of 15 rebel coalition MLAs in Karnataka, the Congress and JD(S) Wednesday decided to issue a whip to all its legislators, including 16 MLAs who have resigned, to attend the trust vote scheduled Thursday as well as a separate whip to vote for the coalition.
But the rebel MLAs, holed up in Mumbai since they quit, hailed the SC’s directions and said there was no question of taking back their resignations from the Assembly or attending the trust vote. “We are happy with the decision of the Honourable Supreme Court, we honour it,” said rebel Congress MLA B C Patil said in a video released to the media.
The decision to issue the whip to all 116 MLAs of the coalition (minus the Speaker) was taken by the Congress and the JD(S) shortly after the SC issued an interim order on the pleas of 15 rebel MLAs who approached the court for directions to the Speaker to accept their resignations.
Though the SC order also stated that the rebel MLAs must not be compelled to attend the state Assembly, the Congress, after discussions with experts and lawyers, concluded that a whip, asking legislators to attend an Assembly session, is the prerogative of a political party under the anti-defection law.
“Since the MLAs in their petitions did not name the Congress or the JD(S) as respondents, the Supreme Court has not curbed the rights of parties to issue a whip – though the SC order says legislators must not be compelled to be in the Assembly,’’ said a Congress leader.
Karnataka Law Minister Krishna Byregowda met the Speaker after the SC order, who asked him to report violations of the whip, if any, during the trust vote proceedings. “Any MLA who wants to stay away from the trust vote session will need to inform the Speaker,” he said.
Sixteen MLAs have resigned since July 6, reducing the coalition’s numbers to 101 compared to the BJP’s 105 plus two Independents. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy sought the trust vote last week to prove his majority even as the resignations are yet to processed by the Speaker.
A whip will make it mandatory for all MLAs to attend the session and vote for the coalition in the trust vote or face the possibility of being disqualified for the term of the current assembly. The whip is issued to each MLA by posting it at their homes and offices or handing it personally.
The BJP is banking on defeating the trust vote, staking a claim to form the government, replacing the Speaker after giving 14 days notice and then annulling the disqualification process initiated against the truant MLAs named by the Congress and JD(S).
The coalition hopes to see at least six of the 16 rebels return to the coalition fold and consider two of the Bengaluru MLAs Ramalinga Reddy and Roshan Baig to be in the bag. The return of at least six will tilt the numbers narrowly back the coalition’s favour and more MLAs will follow suit, said JD(S) sources.
After the SC order, the BJP banks on the suggestion that the order has restrained the ruling coalition to issue a whip to compel the rebel MPs on their presence in the house while the Congress cites the threat of disqualification could act as a deterrence for the MLAs to switch over.
“The verdict is best for the BJP in the given scenario. The SC has given an order without damaging any institution, but it has enhanced the potential of 15 MLAs whose resignation is pending,” BJP General Secretary P Muralidhar Rao, in charge of Karnataka, told The Indian Express.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared in court for the Speaker, said, “… the Supreme Court has said the Speaker can do what he likes, when he likes and how he likes. The Speaker will decide. He may accept the resignations tomorrow, he may reject the disqualification, he may accept the disqualification petition and reject the resignations. He may do vice versa. The court has specifically said no fetter on that,” he said.
While Singhvi claimed victory, AICC communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the judgement has set a “terrible judicial precedent.”
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