As the coalition government teetered on the brink of collapse following a spate of resignations by Congress, JD(S) MLAs, all eyes are now on Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. The role of the Speaker becomes key given the fact that the crisis is all about numbers. He will decide on whether and when to accept a demand for a floor test.
In his latest move, Ramesh Kumar clarified that the rebel MLAs failed to communicate to him their decisions and rushed to the Governor. “MLAs didn’t communicate to me and rushed to the Governor. What can he do? Is it not misuse? They approached the Supreme Court. My obligation is to people of this state and the Constitution of the country. I am delaying because I love this land. I am not acting in haste,” Kumar said after meeting the MLAs who flew down from Mumbai to submit resignations afresh. Kumar had earlier pointed out that the resignations submitted to him were not in order, following which the Supreme Court directed the legislators camping in Mumbai to meet the speaker by 6pm on July 11.
The controversy first started when Ramesh Kumar denied receiving resignation from Anand Singh on July 1. “I stay in a rented house and I don’t know to whom he (Anand Singh) has given his resignation letter,” he had said.
However, the 69-year-old, who represents Srinivaspur constituency, is not new to controversies. In February this year, the Speaker compared himself to a “rape victim” for having to undergo repeated interrogation linked to a controversial audio clip alleging poaching of legislators in which his name cropped up multiple times.
“My situation is similar to that of a rape victim. The rape happened just once and the same would have passed if left ignored. But situation worsens when a complaint is filed as I am forced to relive the incident a hundred times in court,” he had said. This led to several women legislators from the Congress itself seeking his apology.
Later in March, the six-time MLA found himself in the soup for making yet another bizarre remark. In response to Congress leader KH Muniyappa’s comment that they were like husband and wife, he said, “I don’t sleep with men. I have a legal wife. He may be interested but I am not.”
Earlier this month, he took a jibe at Congress MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi for faxing his resignation letter to his office and not following the proper procedure.
“Is this a post office or the speaker’s office. Does he consider me to be his employee? The members should follow the rules and procedures of this House,” Kumar had said.
Like many other politicians in Karnataka, Kumar has also sided with different parties during different periods. While he made his political debut by winning his first election in 1978 with a Congress ticket, he was made an MLA for the second time and third time in 1985 and 1994 as a Janata Party and Janata Dal candidate respectively.
He then contested the 1999 elections as an independent and lost after which he rejoined Congress the same year. Ramesh Kumar has since won legislative elections in 2004, 2013 and in 2018.
Among the most senior legislators in the Karnataka Assembly, Kumar was selected as Speaker unanimously after the Congress-JD(S) coalition formed the government. He has previously served as the highest-ranking officer of the state assembly earlier from 1994 to 1999 as well.