K G Bopaiah, 62, the BJP MLA whom Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala appointed as pro tem Speaker to conduct Saturday’s floor test, had served as pro tem Speaker in 2008, too, when a trust vote was held to test the numbers of the then BJP government, again led by B S Yeddyurappa.
The government then fell three short of the requirement of 113 the 224-member House and had to rely on four Independents to nudge it to a majority.
The Governor selected Bopaiah, a four-time MLA from the Kodagu region, from a list of names of senior MLAs provided by the office of the secretary of the Assembly. The convention is to select the most senior MLA, a distinction that belongs to R V Deshpande of the Congress who has been elected eight times.
Bopaiah was also the Speaker between 2009 and 2013, a tenure that saw controversial incidents with the Opposition accusing him of working in favour of the ruling BJP. He was, in fact, described as a “puppet in the hands” of the BJP in 2013 by Yeddyurappa himself, when the latter’s attempts to withdraw support to the BJP government were thwarted by Bopaiah, who suddenly went off on a foreign tour.
In 2011, the Supreme Court criticised Bopaiah for a “partisan trait” while deciding to disqualify 11 BJP members after they had withdrawn support to the Yeddyurappa-led government in October 2010. The Supreme Court said on May 13, 2011, that some of the actions of the Speaker in disqualifying the 11 MLAs did not “meet the twin tests of natural justice and fair play”’.
Bopaiah had disqualified the 11 rebels under anti-defection laws. After the MLAs petitioned courts, the Supreme Court ruled that the Speaker and Chief Minister Yeddyurappa had ignored constitutional norms in the disqualification.
“In our view, not only did the Speaker’s action amount to denial of the principles of natural justice to the appellants, but it also reveals a partisan trait in the Speaker’s approach in disposing of the Disqualification Application filed by Shri B S Yeddyurappa,’’ reads the order. “It would appear that such a course of action was adopted by the Speaker on 10th October, 2010, since the Vote of Confidence on the Floor of the House was slated for 12th October, 2010. The element of hot haste is also evident in the action of the Speaker in this regard as well.”
The 2010 trust vote was marked by bedlam where the Speaker allowed policemen to enter the Assembly to prevent the disqualified MLAs from entering the house.
The trust vote for Yeddyurappa was passed with a voice vote amid chaos. Later, Bopaiah said “the Opposition should have sought a head count or division of vote if it was opposed to the voice vote.” He said the House was in order when the vote was taken.
In 2013, Bopaiah’s moves, which resulted in the stalling of efforts by a group of BJP MLAs led by Yeddyurappa to withdraw support for the Jagadish Shettar-led BJP government by submitting their resignations, were called a “murder of democracy” by Yeddyurappa.