Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (Mint file)
Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (Mint file)

SC decision hits Congress-JD(S) coalition ahead of trust vote in Karnataka

  • Fifteen rebel legislators cannot be compelled to attend the ongoing monsoon session, says Supreme Court
  • Giving rebels the choice to attend the session, including the trust vote, puts the coalition on the back foot in the developing political crisis in Karnataka

Bengaluru: The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) coalition has gone into a huddle to discuss its next course of action after Wednesday’s Supreme Court order, according to which, fifteen rebel legislators cannot be compelled to attend the ongoing monsoon session.

The developments appear to favour the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is confident of higher numbers in the Lower House when the trust vote is taken up.

“We also make it clear that until further orders, the 15 members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House and an option should be given to them that they can take part in the said proceedings or opt to remain out of the same," the SC said in its order on Wednesday.

Giving rebels the choice to attend the session, including the trust vote, puts the coalition on the back foot in the developing political crisis in Karnataka.

“Looks like they (SC) have trespassed on legislators duties which might help the rebels," said one Congress leaders, requesting not to be named.

The coalition is hoping to find some room to save the government, which has battled constant threats to its stability since it was formed in May last year.

“That we cannot compel them to attend is one thing. But what about the trust vote and Finance Bill. If they do not vote, it is grounds for disqualification," the person cited above said. If the government fails to pass the Finance Bill, it will have to be dismantled.

The coalition is now contemplating issuing a fresh whip, among other measures, to bring back the rebels, 14 of whom are currently lodged in a Mumbai hotel.

“We stand by our decision. There is no question of going back," S.T. Somashekar, one of the 14 rebels, said in Mumbai on Wednesday.

Though the main intention is to save the one-year-old H.D. Kumaraswamy-led government, the alliance is trying to ensure that the rebels are disqualified even if the coalition collapses. Discussions for the confidence motion, moved by Kumaraswamy, will come up on Thursday.

If the 16 rebels stay away from attending the session, the coalition would stand at 100 against the BJP’s 105. But the coalition claims to have convinced Ramalinga Reddy to support the government, and is also hoping that the one nominated member will back the alliance, taking its strength up to 102, excluding the speaker whose vote will come into play in case of a tie.

The coalition has alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah engineered the resignation drama by luring legislators with money and plum ministerial berths.

The BJP will also have to win most of the bypolls to remain in power, if it does manage to bring down the coalition in the trust vote.

However, the BJP does not enjoy overwhelming support and could be as vulnerable as the coalition is today, if it manages to muster up the numbers before the trust vote.

The BJP will be left with the support of just one independent, with the coalition claiming that R. Shankar had already merged his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) with the Congress before he was made minister in June, and that he would be disqualified.

While one section of the coalition, led by Kumaraswamy, is trying to bring back some of the rebels, another is trying to get some members of the BJP to abstain from voting.

“The SC decision clearly is a disadvantage to the coalition," according to one senior BJP leader. “There is no question of any BJP member abstaining from voting against the government."

Also read: Opinion | Delay tactics in Karnataka

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