The JD(S)-Congress coalition’s debate in Karnataka over the trust vote is set to see a third session when the House resumes on Monday, 22 July. This comes after the Karnataka governor gave two deadlines to Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy to finish the floor test.
Since the BJP has more MLAs with them, the outcome of trust vote in the Karnataka Assembly is tilted in the saffron party’s favour. This, as obvious, is not good news for the coalition government.
So, what does the coalition gain from delaying the votes, considering they don’t have the numbers to win the trust vote anyway? According to sources, the coalition has a two point agenda:
To Punish the Rebels
On the sidelines of the Assembly, a Congress leader said, “If we go down, we will take them with us,” referring to the 15 rebel MLAs. According to him, the coalition is certain they want to disqualify the rebels before the trust vote.
So, how does the coalition plan to do that? Before the session began, whips were issued by both parties asking their MLAs to appear during the session and vote in favour of the coalition.
Even though they had submitted their resignations, since the Speaker has not accepted them, they continue to be members of the Assembly. Which means if they violate the party whip, by skipping the session or voting against the party, they could be disqualified under the anti-defection law.
Under Article 164 (1B) of the Constitution, a member who has been disqualified can’t be made a minister till the expiry of his/her term, till s/he is re-elected. Since ministerial posts are allegedly a reward for defection offered by the BJP, the coalition believes it would be a setback for the rebels.
Tackling Supreme Court Order
The 17 July Supreme Court order that states 15 rebel lawmakers “ought not to be compelled" to participate in the ongoing Assembly proceedings came as a roadblock for the coalition, which was hoping to disqualify the rebel MLAs. So the coalition camp delaying the trust vote is also with the intention of tackling this order.
Karnataka Congress Chief Dinesh Gundu Rao had approached the Supreme Court on Friday seeking clarification on the order in the context that it does not refer to political parties’ constitutional right to issue a whip to legislators.
His petition also argued that the order would be in breach of provisions of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, since it didn’t allow a political party to issue a whip to its legislators.
A similar petition was filed by the JD(S) as well.
By delaying the trust vote, both parties are buying time to get a favourable order from the Supreme Court, which would help them disqualify the MLAs.
‘Attempt to Expose the BJP’
According to sources in the Congress, the party has a clear agenda of exposing BJP’s hand in the defection of the MLAs, before losing power. The BJP had categorically denied any involvement in the rebel MLAs moving to Mumbai.
But during session, the coalition MLAs at several occasions presented evidence of BJP workers accompanying rebel MLAs to Mumbai. On Friday, JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda also alleged that BJP MLAs Ashwathnarayana and SR Vishwanath came to his house and offered him a bribe of Rs 5 crore.
Soon, Byre Gowda took up the matter and demanded a probe. KPCC President Dinesh Gundu Rao then joined him and said, “Everything happening in Karnataka is being done on the directions of Amit Shah.”
Even though this statement was not taken on record, the coalition camp believes the debate in the session managed to “remove BJP’s mask”. Justifying this claim, a Congress leader pointed out that when a statement was made against one of the rebel MLAs, it was BS Yeddyurappa who came to his defence.
He was referring to JD(S) MLA Sa Ra Mahesh’s statement that he had offered Rs 28 crore to help rebel MLA and former JD(S) state president AH Vishwanath, who was in need of money because of his debts.
Soon Yeddyurappa came to Vishwanath’s defence: “Sa Ra Mahesh, senior leader, he is making comments about Vishwanath being in Rs 28 crore debt. They are saying that is why he has gone to Bombay. Without giving a notice to Speaker, making such comments about a senior leader is criminal. He must apologise. Once Vishwanath returns, this will be discussed in the Assembly,” he said.
According to sources, even though the coalition camp has offered to conduct the trust vote on Monday, they are expected to drag it till evening, with the coalition pushing their two point agenda further.