The Karnataka Assembly grappled with High Voltage drama on Thursday as Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy moved the confidence motion on the floor of the House. In an unprecedented move, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar adjourned the assembly till Friday. Main opposition party the BJP threatened not to live the assembly and staged sit-in in the House.
Prior to this, amid hot debate the House was adjourned for half an hour and the Speaker met the Advocate General to seek legal opinion on whether to defer trust vote. The Congress asked the Speaker not to hold a trust vote till the Supreme Court made clear whether the party could issue a whip. On the other hand, the BJP accused the Congress of being power greedy and trying to defer trust vote. A delegation of senior BJP leaders also met Governor Vajubhai Vala at Raj Bhavan and requested him to direct Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to hold a floor test immediately. Meanwhile, Governor told Speaker to consider holding the vote of confidence by the end of the day.
Bharathi Shetty, President of Karnataka Mahila Morcha, told Afternoon Voice, “Governor Vajubhai Vala has asked Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to conduct voting on the confidence motion by 11.59 pm on Thursday. But it seems that they may defy his instructions. We are watching and if it not happens accordingly, we will be forced to knock the doors of the Supreme Court.”
It is worth mentioning that the Congress-JD(S) coalition government was on shaky ground after 15 Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) resigned. Of the 15 MLAs 12 are from the Congress and three are from the JD(S). While 12 rebel MLAs have reiterated that they would not return to the Congress, the party got a respite from legislator Ramalinga Reddy who said that he would vote in the favour of Congress-JD(S) government.
NCP MP and Advocate Majeed Memon said, “Now the confidence motion cannot be postponed. The Supreme Court has ordered clearly in this regard. The court has given free hand to all MLAs. They may take part in voting or abstain from it. The debate on the confidence motion may be prolonged but the floor test is compulsory.”
BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa said that the trust vote should be taken up without any delay as CM himself admitted he did not have the desired numbers to remain in power. So, there is no need for prolonged discussion on the issue. Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar allowed for a whip to be applied on all MLAs in the Assembly. He said, “This house holds the Supreme Court in the highest esteem. At the same time, let me make it extremely clear to the CLP leader that this office is not restraining you from doing or exercising any of authorities. I have no role to play in that.”
Congress leader and former CM Siddaramaiah said, “If we go ahead with the confidence motion and if the whip is applicable and they (rebel MLAs) don’t come to the house because of the SC order, it will be a big loss to the coalition government.” Siddaramaiah further said, “Till we get clarification on the Supreme Court’s previous order, it is not appropriate to take a floor test in this session which is against the Constitution.”
It is notable that the floor test came a day after the Supreme Court ordered the15 rebel Congress-JD(S) MLAs cannot be forced to participate in trust vote. The decision of the court was like the death knell for the Kumaraswamy government. As the 15 MLAs stayed away from the Assembly, the ruling coalition’s tally dropped to 102 and the coalition government reduced to a minority. Total 20 MLAs were not present in the Assembly. These included 15 rebel MLAs, two Independents, two Congress MLAs and the lone BSP MLA. The strength of the House, thus, became 204. Therefore, new majority mark was 103. The BJP has 105 MLAs. All BJP MLAs were present in the Assembly. Before the crisis began, the ruling combine had 117 MLAs — Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the speaker. There are 225 MLAs in Karnataka Assembly, including the nominated MLA.
After moving the confidence motion, CM launched a bitter attack on the rebel Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs and the BJP for the political crisis in the state. He said, “I know the circumstances under which I have to face this trust vote. I have said earlier as well that power is not permanent.” During discussion, Congress minister Krishna Byre Gowda raised a Point of Order and said that the confidence motion, if put to vote before the Speaker’s decision on the resignation of the rebel MLAs would be incomplete. In such a scenario, the decision of this House would be questionable. However, BJP MLA JC Madhuswamy said that it was not a Point of Order. BJP MLA and former minister Suresh Kumar said that it was a pre-planned Point of Order aimed at distracting the House. BJP senior leader Jagadeesh Shettar also called it diversion from the main agenda and asked Speaker to disallow it. Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar accused the BJP of abducting Congress MLA Shrimant Patil. But the Speaker said, “Matter of Shrimant Patil has been put forth and documents related to his travel were submitted to me. But, I cannot order for an enquiry into the issue.”
It is remarkable that the Congress-JD(S) alliance, which was hastily cobbled together in May last year to prevent the BJP from coming to power in the state it has governed, has been roiled by periodic dissent and open squabbling between the partners. The Congress-JD(S) managed to win just two of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka in the recent general elections. The BJP won 25 seats in the general elections.
Byrathi Basavaraj, Munirathna, ST Somashekar, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Roshan Baig, Srimanth Patil, Anand Singh, B Nagendra, R Shankar, K Gopalaiah, Narayana Gowda, MTB Nagaraj, BC Patil, H Vishwanath, Mahesh Kumthahalli, Prathap Gouda Patil, Dr Sudhakar, Shivaram Hebbar, N Mahesh and Nagesh.