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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Karnataka suspense lingers as speaker sends back resignations of 8 MLAs

The Speaker, who returned to Bengaluru on Tuesday after an outstation trip, said eight of the 13 MLAs who resigned last week did not submitted their letters in the prescribed format, and would have to personally furnish fresh resignation letters.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2019 00:02 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar interacting with media as he arrives at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Tuesday. All 13 MLAs – 10 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) -- submitted their resignations to the speaker’s office last week, threatening the government’s slim majority in the 224-member assembly.(ANI Photo)
Karnataka Legislative Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar interacting with media as he arrives at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Tuesday. All 13 MLAs – 10 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) -- submitted their resignations to the speaker’s office last week, threatening the government’s slim majority in the 224-member assembly.(ANI Photo)
         

Karnataka’s wobbly coalition government received a breather on Tuesday when assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar rejected the resignations of eight lawmakers and asked five others to meet and convince him that their letters offering to demit membership of the House were indeed genuine.

Kumar’s decisions came as top Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD (S), leaders scrambled to win back rebels whose withdrawal has endangered the alliance’s thin majority in the Karnataka assembly.

Kumar, who returned to Bengaluru on Tuesday after an outstation trip, said eight of the 13 MLAs who resigned last week did not submitted their letters in the prescribed format, and would have to personally furnish fresh resignation letters.

The other five – including former state home minister Ramalinga Reddy, seen to be a key leader of the rebel group – were asked to meet the speaker on Friday, when the assembly commences its monsoon session, and on Monday to convince Kumar that their letters were voluntary and had not been coerced.

All 13 MLAs – 10 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) -- submitted their resignations to the speaker’s office last week, threatening the government’s slim majority in the 224-member assembly.

The coalition government was stitched together hours after the results of the May 2018 assembly elections to keep the single-largest group in the assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), out of power. It has since been roiled by infighting and periodic bouts of dissent by both Congress and JD (S) leaders. The coalition partners suffered a setback in the summer’s general elections, in which the BJP won 25 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka.

“If everything happens through postal correspondence, then I’m not required at all… if they want to reiterate their stance, they should do so according to proper rules,” Kumar told reporters. “The clause says if the speaker is convinced that the resignations are voluntary and genuine, then he can accept, not otherwise.”

Suspended Congress MLA R Roshan Baig also submitted his resignation from the House, a day after two independent legislators – R Shankar and H Nagesh – told governor Vajubhai Vala that they were quitting as ministers.

Kumar said he received two letters from Vala on the political developments and clarified that no rebel MLA had met him so far.

“The governor has expressed confidence that I will uphold constitutional norms in one letter,” he told reporters, “in another he has informed me that H Nagesh has withdrawn support. I don’t know why he sent me that because that does not come under my purview.”

The current crisis was triggered by the resignation of 12 ruling coalition MLAs on Saturday – rebel Congress legislator Anand Singh had quit five days before – with the opposition BJP claiming the alliance’s strength in the assembly had slipped below the majority mark.

The saffron party has now decided to approach Vala and Kumar on Wednesday. “We have decided to meet the governor at 1pm and we are meeting the speaker to pressure and request him to accept the resignations of the MLAs,” said party state general secretary Arvind Limbavali.

If the six resignations – by Baig and the five other rebels – are accepted, the assembly strength will come down to 218, with a majority mark of 110. The coalition will have 110 members, excluding the speaker – who cannot vote in a floor test except to break a tie. The Congress will have 74, the JD(S) 35 and the Bahujan Samaj Party one. If the two independent legislators support the BJP, its strength will be 107. If the resignation of all 13 are eventually accepted, the coalition will slip to a minority in the House with just 103 of the 210 members.

Congress troubleshooters appeared confident of pulling the coalition government back from the brink of collapse, but more bad news came from its legislature party meeting in Bengaluru after seven more MLAs failed to show up. The party flew in senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to hold discussions with Reddy and Baig and dispatched state minister DK Shivakumar to Mumbai to speak to the rebel group, who have camped in a city hotel for three days.

“Shivalinge Gowda of the JD(S) and I will go to Mumbai to meet our MLAs. We will try to meet them and try and speak to them. They are our MLAs and my friends, I’ve known them for 40 years now,” Shivakumar said.

In Bengaluru, former chief minister Siddaramaiah accused the BJP of attempting to destablise the government. “Ever since the coalition government took over in the state, the BJP is trying to destabilise it. This is their sixth attempt,” he said.

The Congress also petitioned the speaker to disqualify the MLAs who have tendered their resignation. But the list didn’t include Reddy, in a bid to pacify the leader whom the party believes can come back to its fold. “If one person returns, many more will follow, wait and watch. This episode is not over yet,” said a senior Congress leader on condition of anonymity. Repeated attempts to reach Reddy were unsuccessful.

The crisis continued to echo in Parliament as the Congress and some opposition parties stalled proceedings in the Rajya Sabha and staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha, accusing the BJP of poaching MLAs. “The politics of poaching should be stopped. The politics of targeting should be stopped,” said Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. Senior party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi chanted slogans.

Baig, meanwhile, was asked by the authorities to appear before a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing an alleged ponzi scam at investment firm IMA Group on Thursday. The order came hours after he submitted his resignation.

“We have asked him to appear before us as IMA founder Mohammed Mansoor Khan had mentioned his name,” a senior SIT officer said. Thousands of depositors have allegedly been defrauded in the scam.

First Published: Jul 10, 2019 00:00 IST

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