Eleven rebel legislators of the ruling Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), met Karnataka assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar on Thursday, with some of them resubmitting their resignations in the prescribed format. However, the Speaker said he could not accept their notices until he was satisfied that the resignations were “voluntary and genuine".
Meanwhile, senior Congress and JD(S) leaders urged the Speaker to disqualify the MLAs under anti-defection laws for alleged anti-party activities.
The 11 men arrived in Bengaluru in two chartered flights, and were then escorted to the legislature under heavy security.
“Yes the MLAs came and they have given the resignations in the proper format. They asked if I would accept, but I cannot do that," Kumar said. “I have to think over this all night and take a decision and see if this is voluntary and genuine. I have to be convinced," he said without giving a timeframe.
Though Kumar acknowledged the resignations of eight of the 11 members on Thursday, he is yet to give them a date to take the process further. The rebel legislators met the Speaker after they approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday. An SC bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, heard the petition of 10 rebel MLAs alleging that the speaker has failed in his constitutional duty and acted in a partisan and mala fide manner by not accepting their resignations.
The apex court on Wednesday passed an order directing the rebel MLAs to meet the Speaker at 6 PM, and also requested the speaker to take a decision on their resignations during the course of the day.
However, Kumar cited several reasons for his decision, and quoted from the 33rd amendment of the Constitution “that the resignation shall not be accepted by the Speaker or the chairman if he was satisfied after making such inquiry as he thought fit that the resignation was not voluntary or genuine". The SC will hear the matter on Friday.
With the monsoon session of the assembly scheduled to start on Friday, the Speaker’s decision will be crucial to the survival of the H.D. Kumaraswamy-led coalition government in Karnataka that is clinging to power despite the spate of resignations over the last few days.
Since 1 July, 16 Congress and JD(S) legislators have resigned and if all are accepted, it would bring down the total strength of the coalition to 100 (excluding the Speaker), while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 105 MLAs, besides the support of two independents.
The BJP accused the Speaker of acting on the directions of the coalition government. However, the coalition appeared confident of seeing off the current crisis as the senior leadership of the two parties have gone into overdrive trying to convince the rebels to reconsider their decision to quit.
Krishna Byre Gowda, the rural development and panchayat raj minister, even dared the BJP to go for a trust vote. The BJP has not moved any petition to carry out a trust vote on the floor of the assembly.
Kumaraswamy met senior Congress leaders Siddaramaiah, K.C. Venugopal, G. Parameshwara and Dinesh Gundu Rao on Thursday to chart out the next course of action. “Why do I have to resign? What is the necessity to resign?" he said. The coalition maintains that the BJP has engineered the resignations by luring legislators with the promise of ministerial posts or large amounts of money.