Bengaluru, Sep 24 (IANS) Riding high on returning to power again, an upbeat BJP is betting on the 15 disqualified 'rebels' of the Congress and the JD-S winning in the October 21 Karnataka Assembly by-elections, while the Congress is crying foul over the Election Commission (EC) saying that they can contest the polls.
"As the rebels' case against their disqualification is in the Supreme Court and the hearing is set to resume tomorrow (Wednesday), we do not want to comment or pre-judge its outcome, as we are not party to it.
"We wish them good luck. If they win the case and want to re-contest in the 15 Assembly by-polls on our party ticket, they are welcome. But it's up to them to decide on their future," BJP's state unit spokesman G. Madhusudana told IANS here on Tuesday.
With EC's counsel Rakesh Dwivedi telling the three-judge bench of the apex court on Monday that the Assembly Speaker cannot deprive the disqualified members from re-contesting and the by-polls should not be stayed, the opposition Congress alleged that the poll panel was acting at the behest of the BJP-led government at the Centre and the state in favour of the 'rebels'.
"Who asked for the EC's opinion in this case, which is between the rebels and the Assembly Speaker, who disqualified them from being House members and barred them from re-contesting till its tenure until 2023 under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution," Congress state unit President Dinesh Gundu Rao told IANS here.
Of the 17 Assembly segments in the southern state that fell vacant after the rebels resigned and were disqualified, by-elections to two of them -- Muski in Raichur district and Mahalaskhmi Layout in Bengaluru's northwest suburb -- have been withheld due to litigation in the Karnataka High Court over the results in the May 2018 Assembly polls.
"As the top court and the EC allowed the disqualified rebels to contest in the Tamil Nadu Assembly by-elections on April 18 despite them being debarred by the Speaker for the remaining term, we hope the SC bench will allow the rebels in Karnataka to re-contest without prejudice to the case and its outcome," asserted Madhusudana.
The 17 rebels, including 14 from the Congress and 3 from the JD-S, resigned from their Assembly segments in July in protest against their coalition government's poor functioning, lack of development and other reasons, which eventually led to the 14-month-old coalition government's collapse on July 23 after its Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy failed to prove majority on the floor of the House.
As the EC is against postponing the by-elections, which have to be held within six months after the seats fell vacant, precedence favour them to contest if the Speaker's decision to disqualify them for the remaining Assembly term (42 months) is set aside.
Former Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar disqualified the rebels in July for allegedly defying their party whip to attend the 10-day Monsoon Session and vote in favour of the confidence motion Kumarswamy moved on July 18 to prove majority.
"As the previous three judge-bench allowed the rebels the option of not attending the Assembly session if they chose not to, the question of defying the whip or disqualifying them does not arise, as they had already resigned from their Assembly seats voluntarily and had re-submitted the resignations as directed by the count," recalled Madhusudana.
An upset Congress, however, vowed to defeat the rebels at the hustings if they re-contest, as it feels the electorate will teach them a lesson for betraying them and conspiring with the "opportunistic" BJP to defeat their coalition government by resigning and staying away from the Assembly for the trust vote.
"We will see with what face and guts they (rebels) will contest the bypolls, which they caused by betraying the party and the voters. As they have been expelled from the party and dare not contest as Independents, the electorate will defeat them even if they contest on a BJP ticket, which will expose them for conspiring to bring down our government in collusion with the saffron party," Congress leader V.S. Ugrappa told IANS here.
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