The developments in Karnataka over the last fortnight have been shameful. It is difficult to point a finger at any one person since everyone from the Governor down to the chief minister to the Speaker and leaders of the Congress, the BJP and the Janata Dal (Secular) have erred. The result is that there has been a virtual constitutional breakdown and the worst is perhaps yet to come.
B S Yeddyurappa won his second trust vote in less than a week. But he could still face the prospect of being voted out of power if the Karnataka High Court reinstates the 16 expelled MLAs who were arbitrarily disqualified by Speaker K G Bopaiah. By seeking the trust vote, the CM does not have immunity against facing a no-confidence motion in the near future.
What is amazing is that the BJP should have agreed to a trust vote at all. In this respect, even the Governor, by asking Yeddyurappa to prove his majority following the withdrawal of support by 16 MLAs, seems to have faltered. Even if the government in power had lost support of some of the MLAs aligned with it earlier, the parliamentary way of doing things is to ask them to move a no-confidence motion.
The onus of proving that the government isn't in a majority should be with those who claim so. Therefore, the appropriate manner would have been that such a motion should have come during an assembly session. If a government survives a no-confidence motion, it is safe for six months. But this immunity is not guaranteed if it seeks a trust vote for which there is no specific provision in the rules of business. Nothing prevents the Opposition from moving a no-confidence motion even if the government has passed the trust vote test.
Earlier rulings by the apex court have held that the floor test is always the ultimate test. But Yeddyurappa thought of using muscle power to prove a point. In the process, the Speaker took an arbitrary decision of not only disqualifying his partymen but also independents under the anti-defection law. This is totally unprecedented since none of the disqualified MLAs were given a chance to explain themselves. To top it, during the first instance, he ruled in the BJP's favour through a voice vote without getting a division done. And that too in the presence of uniformed policemen who had been asked to enter the assembly in a development which is as shameful as the rest of things that have happened in the state.
The final word on the matter will be given by the High Court on Monday. But what Bopaiah did in Karnataka to save his government, another BJP Speaker, Kesarinath Tripathi had done in the UP assembly a few years ago to bail out the Mulayam Singh Yadav government by disqualifying BSP MLAs.
What is happening is perhaps a reflection of the times we are living in. Even Governor H R Bhardwaj's decision to first recommend the imposition of President's rule and, after apparent reluctance on the part of the Centre to accept it, to ask the chief minister to take the trust vote for a second time seems indefensible. The Congress at the Centre must have thought that imposition of President's rule may never get endorsed in the Upper House where its strength is not sufficient.
But what has happened is that the BJP is baying for Bhardwaj's blood and has already met the President to recall him. The campaign for his ouster may gain momentum in the coming days. The BJP wants to defend its southern citadel with all its might but the inexperience of its CM is giving it some anxious moments. The situation could finally lead to the state getting either a new CM or a new Governor or both. Between us.