(Ahead of the 10:30 am Supreme Court hearing on 18 May, The Quint reported that the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) combine was likely to produce affidavits of its 116 MLAs to prove majority in Karnataka. This article has been updated to reflect the lawyers of the alliance as saying that they decided not to produce affidavits after the court set the floor test for 19 May.)
The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance leaders intended to produce affidavits of 116 MLAs – to prove majority – before the Supreme Court on 18 May, a senior lawyer appearing for the combine told The Quint ahead of the hearing.
However, following the hearing, the senior lawyer said that the alliance leaders decided not to produce affidavits after the court called for a floor test in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm on Saturday, 19 May.
We have affidavits of 116 MLAs, we will assess the situation after the floor test. If things don’t move in our favour, we will produce these affidavits in the SC next week.Senior lawyer for Congress-JD(S) combine
The SC’s floor test order came despite the BJP’s lawyer, Mukul Rohtagi, having repeatedly requested that the party be granted “more time”.’
As per the SC order, the Congress-JD(S) combine has been given six weeks to file the counter-affidavit, and four weeks thereafter to file a rejoinder affidavit, if any.
The Supreme Court has not disposed off the Congress-JD(S) combine’s petition and will give directions on the matter within the next ten weeks.
(Here is the version of the story, as published ahead of the hearing.)
Cong-JD(S) to Produce Affidavits of 116 MLAs in SC, Says Lawyer
According to the source, the 116 affidavits don’t include that of Congress MLA Anand Singh, who reportedly went incommunicado on Thursday, 17 May.
During a late-night hearing on 17 May, the apex court had refused to stay BS Yeddyurappa's swearing-in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, after the Congress-JD(S) had filed a petition challenging Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form government.
The SC had, however, agreed to take up the matter at 10:30 am on 18 May .
There are two major points in the affidavits – one, all these MLAs support the Congress-JD(S) coalition in Karnataka, and, two, they want HD Kumaraswamy to be the state chief minister.
The affidavits of the MLAs – 37 from the JD(S), 76 from the Congress, one each from the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party, and an Independent legislator – can play a key role in convincing the top court that the Congress-JD(S) combine have the majority, and can prove the same in the Legislative Assembly floor test.
Moreover, if any of the 116 MLAs attempt to switch sides later, they may end up facing the anti-defection law. This means that it would be difficult for the BJP to indulge in horse-trading after these affidavits are submitted in the apex court.
The SC, during the late-night hearing, had served a notice to Yeddyurappa, asking him to file by Friday the letter he wrote to the Karnataka governor, in which he had sought permission to be allowed to prove his majority on the floor of the House.
Congress-JD(S) Exude Confidence
In its petition filed late on Wednesday, 16 May, the Congress-JD(S) had annexed a copy of the letter tendered to the Karnataka governor. The petition reads:
“JD(S) together with the support of the Congress and BSP, intend to form a coalition government as the coalition strength is 116, which is sufficient to form a stable government.” This means that Congress-JD(S), through documentary evidence, has claimed majority in front of the SC.
Congress, JD(S) File Letters of Support From MLAs
Further, the Congress-JD(S) had annexed with their petition the letters from individual MLAs pledging support to the coalition, and accepting Kumaraswamy as Karnataka’s “legitimate” chief minister. The JD(S) also handed over these letters to Vala.
But the BJP Has a Way Out
How is Yeddyurappa claiming to get majority – it requires the support of 111 MLAs out of the 220-member Assembly – if the JD(S) and the Congress have claimed the support of 116 MLAs in their petition? It doesn't add up, unless horse-trading is on the cards.
A scenario like the Operation Lotus of 2008 can come into play. The BJP can make 14 MLAs of the Opposition Congress and the JD(S) abstain from voting during the floor test in the Assembly to bring down strength to 207
This will bring down the threshold of proving a majority in the House. Currently, the BJP has 104 seats. It can cross the halfway-mark if the strength comes down to 207.
Other Likely Scenarios
- If, after the Congress and the JD(S) claim majority, any of the 116 MLAs switch sides, they may come under the Supreme Court’s scanner in view of the anti-defection law.
- By Friday, if the apex court is not convinced that the BJP has the majority, it could nullify Yeddyurappa’s swearing in and give the Congress-JD(S) combine the chance to prove majority in the House.
- On the other hand, if it is convinced that the BJP can prove its majority, then it could back Governor Vala’s decision to give Yeddyurappa a chance to do the same.
- If it wants to scuttle the chances of horse-trading, the SC could also order the floor test to be conducted in a period less than the 15 days granted by the Governor.
(This story has been updated after the hearing.)
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