BS Yediyurappa wins floor test, Karnataka speaker resigns
Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa proved his majority in the assembly by winning a trust vote on Monday, bringing down the curtain on weeks of political turmoil in the southern state that saw the fall of the 14-month-old Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government.
Yediyurappa, who was sworn in as chief minister for the fourth time last Friday, won the floor test with a voice vote and managed to pass two key pieces of legislation – the finance bill and the supplementary budget – in a two-hour proceeding that also saw speaker KR Ramesh Kumar resign.
The House was adjourned till Wednesday, when the new speaker will be elected. The BJP has confirmed that senior leader KG Bopaiah will be its nominee.
Yediyurappa said the administration in the state had come to a standstill during the rule of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government.
“The administration in the state has failed and setting it right will be our first priority,” the 76-year-old leader added, thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah for reposing faith in him.
The Congress-JD(S) alliance, forged hours after the results of the May 2018 assembly election were announced, collapsed after 15 lawmakers resigned from their positions roughly three weeks ago.
The BJP was expected to sail through the trust vote after Kumar disqualified 17 rebel legislators, whose absence during a trust vote last week toppled the coalition government, on Sunday. In the truncated assembly of strength 208, the new halfway mark was 105 – the exact number of MLAs the BJP has.
Two of those rebels from the Congress – Gokak MLA Ramesh Jharkiholi and Athani MLA Mahesh Kamathalli – moved the Supreme Court on Monday against their disqualification, saying the speaker’s decision smacked of “bias” and was “arbitrary,” “grossly illegal” and “violative” of the constitutional mandate. In his order, Kumar had said the lawmakers stood disqualified until the term of the current assembly, due to end in May 2023, and were barred from contesting bypolls, but constitutional experts had said this is bound to be legally challenged.
The next challenge for Yediyurappa is to choose his cabinet and strike a balance on questions of regional, caste and religious representation. Other than the chief minister, the council of ministry can have a maximum of 33 members.
The proceedings in the assembly on Monday began with fireworks.
Introducing the one-line motion as soon as the session began at 11am, Yeddiyurappa reiterated the promise of providing two installments of ₹2,000 to farmer beneficiaries under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi and the waiver of weavers’ loans that he had announced on Friday.
He also reiterated his assurance that he would not “indulge in vindictive politics”. “I believe in forget and forgive,” Yediyurappa said while appealing to the Opposition to extend support to the government.
This was immediately challenged by former chief minister Siddaramaiah, who argued that Yediyurappa had become the chief minister without enjoying the popular mandate. “Unfortunately, Yediyurappa has never been chief minister with the people’s mandate,” Siddaramaiah said. “When you [Yediyurappa] took oath the House strength was still 222, where did the BJP have 112 MLAs to have a majority? They had 105 seats,” he said, opposing the confidence motion.
Former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, who was ousted after losing last Tuesday’s floor test by six votes, said he opposed the “unconstitutional manner” in which the BJP government had been formed. “Now that they are in power, they should place the facts before the people about the failure of the coalition government instead of making allegations,” he added.
The introduction of the finance bill, needed to pay the salaries of state government employees, and the supplementary budget also triggered a heated debate. Both were ultimately passed in a voice vote.
The speaker then proceeded to pre-empt any attempt by the BJP to move a no-confidence motion against him by announcing his resignation. In his speech, Kumar said that any government that was serious about tackling corruption had to recognise that its root was elections.
“It rings hollow if we talk about ending corruption without talking about electoral reforms,” Kumar said. “We don’t need money for electoral reforms, we need a large heart,” he added. Kumar also said that the country needed to re-look Schedule X of the Constitution that deals with defections and the Representation of the People Act, because there were many loopholes in them. “Let’s not mislead the people,” he said, before tendering his resignation.