Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh holds the key to the State political crisis after he declared on Tuesday that the resignation letters of 8 of 13 rebel MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) were not in correct format even as the Congress urged the Speaker to disqualify some of these lawmakers under the provision of the anti-defection law. The Speaker will meet five of the rebel MLAs during the next week, giving breathing space to the ruling coalition. The Karnataka Assembly session will begin on July 12.
The issue reverberated in both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday. While the Rajya Sabha could not transact any business due to disturbance by the Congress members, in the Lok Sabha the Opposition party expressed dissatisfaction with the Government’s response that resignations by MLAs in Karnataka was an “internal matter” of the Congress.
As Congress leader Rahul Gandhi himself joined the slogan-shouting, the Congress for the second day on Tuesday raised the issue of alleged destabilisation of the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka by the BJP by way of “poaching” and staged a walkout.
Giving an interesting twist to the resignation drama, Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh said, “First, I will hear them and try to know what is on their mind. If there are complaints, only then I will go for public hearing.”
Disclosing that he had “written to the Governor that none of the rebel MLAs has met him”, the Speaker said, “He (Governor) has expressed confidence that I will uphold constitutional norms. Out of 13 resignations, eight are not according to law. I’ve given them time to present themselves before me.”
The Speaker said no MLA sought an appointment with him since Saturday morning. “I was in office on Saturday (July 6) up to 12.30 pm. No MLA sought an appointment or conveyed that I should wait for them. On leaving office, 13 of them handed resignation letters. Out of 13, eight are not in the prescribed format under the rules.
“We have written back to them. If they intend to resign, they have to give it in the proper format.”
The Speaker said he has asked three of the five MLAs — Anand Singh, Narayan Gowda and Pratap Gowda — to meet him on July 12 and the rest two — Ramalinga Reddy and Gopalaiah — on July 15.
Meanwhile, another Congress MLA Roshan Baig put in his papers. “Roshan Baig’s letter reached today and I’ve send it to my Secretary,” the Speaker said.
The JD(S)-Congress coalition’s total strength is 116 (Congress-78, JD(S)-37 and BSP-1) besides the Speaker. With the support of the two independents, who on Monday resigned from the Ministry, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the halfway mark is 113. If the resignations of the 14 MLAs are accepted, the coalition’s tally will be reduced to 102.
At the same time, the Congress sought the Speaker’s intervention in disqualifying its rebel legislators and accused the BJP of using money power to lure its members after another MLA quit the party.
In a counter offensive after 13 MLAs resigned on Saturday dealing a blow to the 13-month-old Government, a delegation of Congress leaders met the Speaker and submitted the petition seeking, under the anti-defection law, disqualification of the rebel legislators in line with the decision taken at a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party on Tuesday.
The move comes a day after all the Ministers in the Congress-JD(S) coalition Government resigned, paving the way for a Cabinet reshuffle to accommodate disgruntled legislators.
The rebel MLAs, camping in Maharashtra, however, appeared undeterred by the Congress’ disqualification move and said there was no question of them withdrawing resignations.
“There is no question of us withdrawing resignation. We have resigned voluntarily and have not indulged in any anti-party activity,” Congress MLA S T Somasekhar told reporters.
Two other rebel MLAs – Ramesh Jarkiholi and Byrati Basavaraj — also echoed similar views.
Briefing media after meeting the Speaker, State Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao said according to the CLP decision, they submitted the petition seeking action against the MLAs “who have resigned and have joined hands with the BJP to bring down the Government”.
The anti-defection law applies to them, he claimed, adding further action will be taken by the Speaker. “I hope that they will be disqualified to save democracy.”
The Speaker, who was expected to examine the resignations submitted by the 13 MLAs on Tuesday, later said he had asked the Congress leaders to place material evidence, if any, (in support of their petition) on July 11 and on hearing them he would decide on the next course of action.
Earlier, the CLP meeting, the first after the present crisis hit the Government, saw 20 MLAs, including the 11 who had tendered their resignations, absent.
Congress sources said seven MLAs had sought permission to skip the meeting citing health grounds among other reasons.
Emerging from the meeting, CLP leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked the party MLAs who had resigned to come back or face the consequences.
He alleged that these rebel MLAs have “colluded with BJP and at the behest of the BJP these people are trapped”.
AICC general secretary KC Venugopal, Gundu Rao, KPCC Working president Eshwar Khandre, Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara among others were present at the meeting.
However, the party has decided not to seek disqualification of seven-time MLA Ramalinga Reddy, as he has made it clear he was not quitting the party, Rao said.
Congress leaders and MLAs staged a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue at Vidhana Soudha, the State Secretariat, for an hour after which they submitted the petition to the Speaker.
Noting that the act of MLAs attracted provisions of the anti-defection law, Siddaramaiah said along with disqualification “we have also requested that they should not be allowed to contest election for six years. I hope the Speaker will act according to the provisions of the Act.”
He alleged the BJP in an anti-democratic way has been indulging in destabilising the democratically elected Governments in Karnataka and other States.
Siddaramaiah claimed ever since the coalition Government was formed in Karnataka, the saffron party had been “continuously and constantly” trying to topple it.
Five times they have attempted to destabilise the Government, this is their sixth attempt, they are trying to destabilise this Government, he said, as he alleged that the national leaders of party including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah were directly involved.
Wednesday, 10 July 2019 | Kestur Vasuki | Bengaluru
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