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K'taka Govt faces trust vote

With CM needing 113 votes, Congress is trying to ensure JD-S stands by it.

india Updated: Jan 27, 2006 14:10 IST

The beleaguered Congress-led coalition government in Karnataka faces a crucial trust vote on Friday to prove whether it enjoys majority in the State Legislative Assembly.

In accordance with the directive of Governor TN Chaturvedi on January 19, Speaker Krishna has convened the assembly in the imposing Vidhan Soudha here for tabling the trust vote, which will be followed by daylong debate and voting, if necessary.

"Since the state legislature has already begun its sittings in the new year with the governor addressing the joint session on January 19, the lower house will resume sittings on Friday and take up the trust vote as requested by Chaturvedi," Krishna said in Bangalore.

The 10-day legislative session was adjourned for a week soon after the governor's address following the "withdrawal" of support to the 20-month-old coalition government by about 45 rebel Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) legislators on January 18 and their decision to align with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form an alternative government in the state.

In the 224-member Karnataka Assembly, the BJP has 79 legislators, Congress 64, JD-S 56, independents 13, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) 5, All India Progressive Janata Dal (AIPJD) 2 and the remaining five are held one each by Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Republican Party of India and the regional parties.

In the wake of a fractured verdict in the May 2004 assembly elections, the then outgoing Congress and the JD-S forged an alliance to form the first coalition government in the state on the Maharashtra model, ostensibly to keep the BJP out of power.

With Chief Minister N Dharam Singh requiring the half-way mark (113 votes) for a simple majority, the Congress is pulling out all stops to ensure its coalition partner JD-S stands by it to prevent the BJP from coming to power in alliance with the rebel faction led by HD Deve Gowda's son and the party's working president HD Kumaraswamy.

Though Deve Gowda maintained he was against breaking away from the Congress to salvage the secular government, it remains to be seen what stand his rebel legislators will take in the lower house for the crucial floor test.

"As per records, Deputy Chief Minister MP Prakash is still the leader of the JD-S legislative party (JDLP). I have already consulted legal experts on the letter given by its state unit president N Thippanna last week claiming majority of the party legislators have elected Kumaraswamy as the new JDLP leader," said Krishna, who belongs to the JD-S.

"I will pronounce my decision on who is the JDLP leader in the house when the trust vote comes up for debate."

In the absence of a whip in the JD-S, it will be interesting to note which way its legislators will vote as they will not be bound by any party directive.

If the Speaker decides in favour of Kumaraswamy as the new JDLP leader, the defeat of the trust vote will be inevitable.

Incidentally, this is the first time a trust vote is being moved after the anti-defection law was amended by the state legislature last year.

According to the Assembly Secretariat, Dharam Singh is the third chief minister to seek a vote of confidence in the 50-year-old Karnataka legislature.

By a strange coincidence, the last trust vote moved by then Janata Dal chief minister JH Patel was on January 27, 1998. The motion was adopted by the house.

In fact, when Deve Gowda was the chief minister of the state, he too moved a trust vote on August 7, 1995, when challenged to prove majority by the main opposition party - the BJP led by BS Yedurappa.

"This is the 12th time in the history of the state assembly a trust vote is being moved to prove whether the incumbent government commanded majority of the house. No chief minister has ever lost the trust vote till date. In fact, S Nijalingappa had won the motion five times between 1961-67," Assembly Secretary T Rajanna recalled.

First Published: Jan 27, 2006 10:28 IST