New benchmark in ‘immoral politics’, says Kumaraswamy ahead of trust vote
Two independent MLAs, who withdrew their support to the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government earlier this month, moved the Supreme Court late on Sunday and asked the top court to order that a floor test be held by 5pm on Monday.Updated: Jul 22, 2019 10:58 IST
Karnataka’s beleaguered coalition government faces trust vote in Assembly on Monday after missing two previous deadlines set by the governor last week. This follows a hectic Sunday when the coalition leaders made a last-ditch attempt to win back rebel lawmakers urging them to ‘come back’.
Two independent MLAs, who withdrew their support to the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government earlier this month, moved the Supreme Court late on Sunday and asked the top court to order that a floor test be held by 5pm on Monday.
The floor test was originally scheduled for Thursday but didn’t happen despite two deadlines set by governor Vajubhai Vala on Friday. The government plunged into crisis after 16 lawmakers – 13 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) -- resigned roughly two weeks ago. Since then, one Congress MLA has signalled he would return to the party fold.
Speculation was also growing over which way Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) lawmaker N Mahesh will vote. The Kollegal MLA said on Sunday he was asked by party chief Mayawati to not back the coalition but hours later, Mayawati tweeted to say she had instructed Mahesh to vote for the coalition government. JD(S) and BSP had fought the 2018 Karnataka assembly election in an alliance.
In the 225-member assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 105 members, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has the support of 100 MLAs excluding the speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. There are 15 rebel MLAs, two independents and one MLA from the BSP, while another is a nominated member. If the resignation letters of the rebel MLAs are accepted by the speaker, the government would be in a minority.
“Instead of wasting time they [coalition] should face (the trust vote). By taking crucial decisions inspite of not having a majority, they are harming the democratic traditions… tomorrow will be the last day of the government,” said state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa.
Chief minister Kumaraswamy hit back at the BJP and claimed that the saffron party had set a new benchmark for “immoral politics”. “I want to make it amply clear that I am not trying to cling onto power. My only intention of seeking time for debate on trust vote is to let the entire country know how the BJP, which talks of morality, is trying to subvert the very principles of democracy as well as Constitution,” he said in a statement.
He again appealed to the rebel MLAs to come back and said, “...let us sit together and discuss all the issues including your problems, if any, and arrive at a solution to save this democratically elected government...” But the 15 lawmakers, who are camping in a Mumbai hotel, said that they had neither changed their decision to resign nor return to Bengaluru for the trust vote. In a video, they claimed there was no difference among them nor were they under any kind of duress.
The lone Lok Sabha MP from the JD(S) and grandson of party patriarch HD Deve Gowda, Prajwal Revanna, met his party MLAs who are currently housed at a resort. He expressed confidence that the coalition government would prevail in the trust vote and end the current political uncertainty in the state.
The Congress also held its legislature party meeting where senior leaders Siddaramaiah, state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao, state working president Eshwar Khandre, Mallikarjun Kharge, HK Patil and RV Deshpande participated. Congress leaders emphasised that the priority should be to save the coalition government at all costs and prevent the BJP from capturing one more state.
The prolonged trust vote process began on Thursday but the day’s proceedings were dominated by the chief minister speaking in the debate that usually precedes a floor test. This prompted the BJP lawmakers to approach the governor, who set a deadline of 1.30pm Friday to complete the exercise. Saffron party legislators also spent the night in the assembly as a mark of protest.
But on Friday, Kumar said he was not bound by the governor’s deadline and let the debate continue. Vala set a second deadline, of 6pm Friday, but that too was breached, before Kumar adjourned proceedings.
Monday may also see the apex court take up the petition of the two independent legislators, H Nagesh and R Shankar, in which they allege the basic structure of the Constitution is being violated “with impunity” in Karnataka. “A minority government, which does not have the confidence of the majority, is being allowed to continue in office by delaying tactics,” the petition read.
A petition by Kumaraswamy arguing the governor could not dictate how the House will debate the trust vote motion may also be mentioned before the Supreme Court on Monday.
Senior political analyst Mahadev Prakash said the coalition government could not postpone the trust vote any further. “They have already ignored the directives of the governor twice to complete the trust vote. For whatever reason, if they try and postpone it further, the governor and Centre might act on them,” he added.
First Published: Jul 22, 2019 00:00 IST