No end to Karnataka drama as trust vote deferred3 min read . Updated: 18 Jul 2019, 11:41 PM IST
- At least 16 Congress-JD(S) legislators have resigned and two have withdrawn support since 1 July
- The assembly will reconvene on Friday
BENGALURU : Allegations of criminal conspiracy and abduction of legislators, an unprecedented letter from the governor, fears of a constitutional crisis, and an all-night sit-in by the opposition—the scenes at the Karnataka legislature on Thursday were nothing if not dramatic.
Ironically, the main reason for all the drama, a floor test called by the state government, remained unrealized. The House was adjourned and ordered to reassemble on Friday.
The debate on the confidence motion, moved by chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, touched off a storm of allegations against the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party by the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition, threatening to escalate the state’s political problems into a constitutional crisis.
The unfolding political drama over defections by several ruling party legislators, ambiguity over a Supreme Court order issued on Wednesday, and allegations of a criminal conspiracy forced the deputy speaker to adjourn the assembly without conducting the trust vote on Thursday.
Soon after Kumaraswamy initiated the debate on the motion, he was interrupted by his predecessor and Congress legislature party leader Siddaramaiah, who sought clarifications on the Supreme Court order upholding a plea by the rebel MLAs to be allowed to stay away from the trust vote.
“We should approach the Supreme Court and seek a clarification. Until then taking up the confidence motion will not be right," Siddaramaiah said, adding that it could lead to violations of constitutional provisions.
The ruling coalition criticized the apex court after it upheld a petition filed by 15 rebel legislators on Wednesday, saying these MLAs “ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings".
The ruling, Siddaramaiah said, appeared to undermine his constitutional right to issue a whip to his party legislators to appear in the House and vote for the government in the trust vote.
Siddaramaiah said the order will embolden the rebels not to attend the session when the confidence motion is taken up. “This would deal a big blow to the Congress."
This prompted a vehement protest by BJP as waiting for a clarification is only likely to prolong the trust vote that will determine the fate of the government. Taking an unusual route, BJP submitted a memorandum to the governor during the lunch break, asking him to convey this message to the assembly speaker.
After lunch, speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar informed the House that governor Vajubhai Vala had sent him a note asking for the trust vote to be held on Thursday.
“Governor shall not interfere in the workings of the House," declared senior Congress leader H.K. Patil.
Late in the evening, Vala dashed off a second letter to Kumaraswamy saying, “I require you to prove your majority on the floor of the house on or before 1.30pm tomorrow."
At least 16 Congress-JD(S) legislators have resigned and two others withdrawn support to the coalition since 1 July, pushing the Kumaraswamy government to the brink of collapse.
Speaker Kumar said he would consult the advocate general of the state so that he could provide more clarity on Siddarmaiah’s concerns as his ruling would set a precedent.
On Thursday, the coalition found itself short by 20 legislators, according to leaders on both sides, including 15 lodged in a Mumbai hotel.
The Congress alleged that BJP had kidnapped its legislator from Kagwad, Shrimant Balasaheb Patil, and taken him to Mumbai by force.
Coalition MLAs held up pictures of Patil, who is allegedly confined in a hospital.
The coalition blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah for engineering the defections in Karnataka and other states.
Meanwhile, BJP said it would remain in the assembly and spend Thursday night inside it if required, but not leave until the trust vote is taken up.
“Today all the procedures and rules governing the confidence motion, moved by the chief minister, have been thrown to the wind. We are demanding voting on the motion," Karnataka BJP chief B.S. Yeddyurappa said.
The assembly will reconvene on Friday.