Karnataka may head for spell of President's rule

Photo: IANS

Bengaluru (IANS) Karnataka may have a spell of President's rule till its Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar decides on the resignations of the 15 rebel legislators of the Congress and JD-S, as the BJP is not in a hurry to stake claim to form a government amid uncertainty, a party official said on Thursday.

"If the Speaker takes longer time to accept or reject the resignations of the rebels, the Governor (Vajubhai Vala) may recommend President's rule in the state, as we would not like to stake claim to power in such a situation," state BJP spokesperson G. Madhusudan told IANS.

The party is also unclear about the Speaker's decision on applying the disqualification clause on the rebel legislators for defying their respective party whips as recommended by the Congress and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S).

Although the Supreme Court has said in its July 17 order that the Speaker was free to decide on the rebels' resignations as per the anti-defection law, the rebels continued to abstain from the Assembly as the three-judge bench also said they could not be compelled to attend the House while their resignations were pending before the Speaker after they re-submitted these on July 11.

The three-judge bench is headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose.

After 10 rebels petitioned the top court on July 10 for its directive to the Speaker to accept their resignations forthwith, the remaining 5 rebels impleaded themselves through a joint petition on July 13 with the same plea.

In case the Speaker takes more time to decide on their resignations, the rebels are likely to approach the apex court again for its intervention as their plea before the bench was for directing the Speaker to accept the resignation letters forthwith since the ones re-submitted on July 11 were in the prescribed order.

"Till the resignations are accepted, the strength of the Assembly will remain 225, including one nominated, as the rebels are still members, with 113 as the halfway mark for a simple majority," the spokesperson said. 

"Even with the support of two Independents, we will be still 6 short off the halfway mark at 107 (105 + 2) if we are asked to prove majority by the Governor after forming the new government."

In case the Speaker accepts the resignations or disqualifies the rebels, the Assembly strength will reduce to 210, with 106 as the halfway mark for majority, which the BJP will be able to win, with the support of the two Independents.

"As the decisions of the Speaker and the top court will take time, the Governor may recommend President's rule and keep the Assembly in suspended animation till we are in a position to stake claim and form a stable government on our own majority," Madhusudan said.

If the rebels' resignations are accepted, or they are disqualified, by-elections in the 15 assembly segments will have to be held within six months of the vacancies being caused.

"We do not want to take chances again, as in May 2018, after the Assembly elections threw up a hung House due to a split verdict and our leader (B.S. Yeddyurappa) had to resign as 3-day Chief Minister on May 19, since we were 8 short of the halfway mark," he added.

In the 225-member House, including one nominated, the BJP won 105 seats, Congress 80, JD-S 37 and one each was won by BSP, KPJP (a reginal outfit) and an Independent.

The rebels, including 12 of the Congress and 3 of the JD-S, are Anand Singh, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatahalli, Shivaram Hebbar, Pratapgauda Patil, Byarathi Basavaraj, S.T. Somasekhar, N. Munirthna, B.C. Patil. Roshan Baig, M.T.B. Nagaraj and K. Sudhakar (all Congress) and A.H. Vishwanath, S. Narayan Gowda and K. Gopalaiah (all JD-S).

On the apex court's July 10 directive, 11 rebels flew in from Mumbai, re-submitted their resignations on July 11 personally to the Speaker, and returned the same night to Mumbai where they have been camping in a star hotel since the night of July 6.

In a related development, Congress General Secretary and in-charge of the party's state affairs K.C. Venugopal dared the BJP to form the government with only 105 seats and risk its survival in the event of the Independents withdrawing their support to the party and the Speaker rejecting or disqualifying the rebels.

"The BJP too has no majority to form the government on its own and will be at the mercy two Independents, who resigned as ministers in our coalition government on July 8 and pledged support to the saffron party, but were not present in the Assembly to vote against the confidence motion along with its 105 legislators,' Venugopal added.

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