Bangalore: The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Karnataka swept the three by-elections in the state but had to end celebrations on Friday after the Supreme Court quashed the disqualification of 16 rebel legislators on the eve of a trust vote in October.
A party spokesman said the court order posed no danger to the BJP government in Karnataka. The party would consider its options, including appealing against the court order, he said.
The B.S. Yeddyurappa-led government in Karnataka survived a contentious floor test in a diluted state assembly in October after speaker K.G. Bopaiah disqualified 11 rebel legislators and five independent members.
A division bench of the apex court set aside Bopaiah’s ruling, saying the speaker had not observed the “basic constitutional values and principles of natural justice” in disqualifying the rebels.
“There is no threat to the government,” said former Union minister and BJP spokesperson V. Dhananjay Kumar. “We have a right to go for appeal against the current order. We will examine all options. Remember, even if the order is upheld, those 11 (rebels) will still be BJP MLAs (members of the legislative assembly) and will have to adhere to the party whip,” he said.
The Karnataka BJP was in festive mood earlier after it won in all three constituencies—Chennapatna, Jagalur and Bangarpet—where by-polls were held, taking its strength in the 224-member state assembly to 110. The elections were necessitated by the resignations of three legislators—two from the Congress and one from the Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S)—from their assembly seats to join the BJP under Operation Lotus, which the ruling party had launched to bolster its strength in the assembly.
The BJP’s Kumar said the victory in the by-polls was a vindication of the development work done in the state by the BJP. “It is also a vote for the leadership of Yeddyurappa,” he said.
Congress leader V.S. Ugarappa demanded the resignation of the assembly speaker following the Supreme Court’s remarks. “The BJP government has won the by-polls by misusing state machinery and through money power,” he said. “We welcome the Supreme Court’s order today.”
JD(S) state president Kumaraswamy, while welcoming the court order, said the party would respect the verdict of the people. “This government is trying to survive by engineering defections in the opposition by offering inducement and threats to MLAs. It will fall by its own internal contradictions,” he said.
Balachandra Jarakiholi, one of the 11 rebels who had been disqualified by the speaker, said: “From day one, we have said we are against Yeddyurappa’s leadership and not against the party. We welcome the SC order and all 16 of us, including the five independents, will sit and discuss our future course of action.”
PTI contributed to this story.