Floor test to President rule: How Karnataka crisis may play out
After a spate of resignations by legislators of the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka — 10 from Congress and three from JD (S) by Saturday; two more, including one Independent on Monday — the two parties are busy firefighting in order to save the 13-month-old government, with the entire cabinet resigning in order to accommodate the dissident legislators.
On Monday, Karnataka minister R Shankar of regional outfit Karnataka Prajnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) resigned his post and also withdrew support to the beleaguered JDS-Congress government, stating that he would support the Bharatiya Janata Party. Small-scale industries minister H Nagesh, an Independent legislator, resigned and withdrew support as well, while Congress MLA R Roshan Baig told HT that he too intended to resign .
After the May 2018 elections to the 225-member assembly (one is nominated), the Congress had 78 MLAs, the JD(S) 37 and the BJP 105. The Congress-JD(S) also had the support of the nominated MLA, an MLA each from the Bahujan Samaj Party and the KPJP, and one Independent. In effect, the ruling coalition had 119 MLAs, in an assembly where the halfway mark was 113.
With the monsoon session of the assembly set to begin on Friday, here’s a look at five possible scenarios facing the state government.
Speaker accepts the resignations
Assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, who was not in his chamber when 12 MLAs submitted their resignations on Saturday, told reporters that he will take a call on Tuesday. Though acknowledgements have been issued to the MLAs, Kumar said that he would consult legal authorities before making a decision. If the resignations are accepted, the coalition’s numbers will be down to 104 (not including Baig’s intended resignation), and the Speaker will have to call on the government to prove its majority on the floor of the House.
Dissident MLAs return
Senior leaders of the Congress-JD(S) are still confident that some disgruntled MLAs might return, now that all ministers have resigned to make way for a cabinet re-shuffle. “If a few return then the other rebels will find it hard not to do so,” a senior Congress leader.
Anti-defection law is invoked
At a meeting in the residence of Deputy Chief Minister G Parameshwara, which was attended by senior leaders, including AICC general secretary K C Venugopal, Congress leaders decided to explore all legal options against the rebel MLAs, including the anti-defection law.
However, advocate BV Acharya said this will not stand, legally. “There are only two circumstances under which the anti-defection law applies. One, the MLAs should disobey a whip issued by the party, or, second, they should resign from their party.”
In this case, since the Assembly is not in session, no whip has been issued and the MLAs have not given up membership of their respective parties. “There is no such thing as anti-party activity in the Schedule 10 of the Constitution,” Acharya said.
President’s Rule is imposed
The Governor can also put the state under President’s Rule. However, the Supreme Court has previously held that the Governor must exhaust all options to ensure that an elected government is in power before taking such a decision.
Governor asks for a floor test
The Bharatiya Janata Party has appealed to the Governor to take action, as the coalition has lost a majority, pending the acceptance of the resignations.
It is even considering parading its MLAs before the Governor’s residence in a show of strength. In this scenario, a senior BJP leader said, the party was petitioning the Governor to call on the coalition to prove a majority.
According to Acharya, though the Governor had limited power, he could call on the chief minister to prove his majority on the floor of the House.