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How Congress laid groundwork for midnight Supreme Court hearing against Karnataka governor

Congress leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, went into a huddle on Wednesday and decided to file the petition against the Karnataka Governor for inviting BJP’s Yeddyurappa to form the government.

Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 18, 2018 09:52 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress Supreme Court hearing,Karnataka governor,Abhishek Manu Singhvi
Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi arrives at Supreme Court for the hearing of a petition challenging Karnataka Governor's decision, in New Delhi.(PTI File Photo)

On Wednesday, an apprehensive Congress started drafting its petition against the Karnataka governor in the afternoon, long before Vajubhai Vala invited Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the government.

As the drama heightened in Karnataka and news came that there was little chance the governor would call Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy to form the government, top leaders of the Congress sprang into action to give the final shape to the next step: a legal challenge in the Supreme Court.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, the party’s legal brain Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Rajya Sabha member Vivek Tankha and Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala got into a huddle at the Congress office. There, it was decided to file the petition in the following few hours.

“It was our natural outpouring of grievance against what was happening in the southern state. There was a clear arithmetic impossibility in the BJP’s claims, yet politics had taken precedence. We felt that if the petition was filed immediately, the SC would take a different view. Our promptness would show our assertion to uphold what the apex court had said in the Goa case,” said Singhvi.

In that case, last year, the Supreme Court said, “When no political party is in majority, then it is the bounden duty of the Governor to see who can form the government. If nothing happens, then the Governor is duty-bound to call the leader of the single largest party but if someone goes to the Governor with a list of supporters, then it is a different issue altogether.”

Congress leaders kept party president Rahul Gandhi informed throughout this period through messages and phone calls.

Dubbing the governor’s invitation to the BJP to form the government “immoral, illegal and unconstitutional”, the Congress moved the Supreme Court late on Wednesday night, citing both constitutional and judicial precedents. The BJP defended the governor’s decision. It too, cited another set of constitutional conventions and court judgments.

The petitioners, former Congress state president G Parmeshwara and Janata Dal (Secular) leader Kumaraswamy, sought an urgent midnight hearing from the top court.

After their quick meeting, the Congress leaders, except Patel and Singhvi, went on to hold a press conference. Singhvi, who was chosen by the party to appear in this case, went back home but not before asking his associates to seek a hearing. At 9.30 pm, the party received a copy of the invitation extended to Yedduyrappa and then, without wasting any time, the associates filed the petition with the registrar of the court.

The Congress’ legal brains also felt that the court would hear the case in the night itself but could summon the petitioners at a very short notice. They decided that they would assemble somewhere hear the court. So, they all gathered at the coffee shop at the Taj Mahal hotel on Mansingh Road.

The hearing started in the Supreme Court at 2:10am.