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Karnataka: Speaker Sets 6pm Deadline for Floor Test, Summons Rebel MLAs Over Disqualification Plea Tomorrow

KR Ramesh Kumar

Karnataka : The fate of the fragile Congress-JDS government in Karnataka will be decided today with a trust vote in the Assembly, even as a new twist to the political saga saw the grand old party assert that the JDS was “ready to sacrifice” for the coalition and they wanted either Siddaramaiah, G Parameshwara or DK Shivakumar to be the chief minister. A day before the vote, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy appealed to rebel MLAs to return and “expose” the BJP during the debate in the House, but they ruled out attending the session. Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa exuded confidence that “tomorrow will be the last day of the Kumaraswamy government” and said the chief minister was just trying to buy time.

After the voting on confidence motion did not take place despite two deadlines on July 19 set by Governor Vajubhai Vala, two Independent MLAs, who withdrew support to the Congress-JD(S) government, are going to move the Supreme Court seeking a direction for conducting a floor test forthwith in the state Assembly, their lawyer said.

In their petition, MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh have sought a direction to the Kumaraswamy government to hold the floor test on or before 5pm on July 22, senior advocate Mukul Rohatagi, said.

Amid reports that the government was still trying to prolong the discussion on the confidence motion to delay the floor test in a hope of some kind of relief from the Supreme Court, Kumaraswamy on Sunday said he was 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, and offered to hold talks with rebels MLAs to resolve their issues.

But the rebel lawmakers hunkered down in a Mumbai hotel asserted they would not return and rejected allegations they were held captive. “We thought this government will do good to the state but it did not happen. There is no question of our attending the assembly session tomorrow,” rebel JD(S) MLA K Gopalaiah said in a video, flanked by ten other legislators.

AH Vishwanath, who resigned as the JD(S) state president following the Lok Sabha election debacle, said “the demonic politics in the name of coalition has done no good to the people and compelled the MLAs to resign”.

Senior minister and Congress trouble shooter DK Shivakumar claimed Kumaraswamy has told the Congress that it can appoint any leader of its choice as CM to save the coalition.

There was, however, no confirmation from the JDS that it has made such a proposal though there were reports earlier that such a suggestion by Kumaraswamy was shot down by his father and JDS supremo HD Deve Gowda.

Kumaraswamy and the Congress had moved the Supreme Court on Friday, accusing the Governor of interfering with the Assembly proceedings when the debate on the trust vote was underway and sought clarification on its July 17 order, which they said,caused hindrance in issuing whip to the legislators.

Kumaraswamy on Sunday mounted a scathing attack on BJP, accusing it of touching a new low by by its “immoral politics”. “It is a matter of immense pain and disgust that the BJP has not only taken Karnataka’s political scenario to a new low, but also touched a new low in the country for immoral politics. The BJP has made a mockery of democracy by taking away several MLAs from ruling coalition forcefully,” he said in the statement.

“Amidst all these developments, which are a result of sole ambition to capture power through immoral and illegal ways, the BJP has been demanding I must resign immediately and has even got the Raj Bhavan to set deadlines for putting the confidence motion into vote,” the chief minister said. He made a fervent appeal to the disgruntled MLAs to return and “expose” the BJP.

“I would like to appeal to such MLAs who have gone away from us to please attend the legislature session and narrate how the BJP took them away forcefully,” he said. The JDS leader also assured he would do every bit to solve their problems.

Meanwhile, the coalition received a minor relief when Bahujan Samajwadi Party supremo Mayawati directed her party’s lone MLA in Karnataka N Mahesh to vote in favour of the trust motion.

BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa hit back at Kumaraswamy questioning where was his morality when the JDS and Congress came together to satiate the greed for power after fighting elections against each other.

The assembly was adjourned till Monday after the Governor’s 1.30pm deadline and the second one to conclude the confidence motion process by Friday itself was ignored, prolonging the climax to the ceaseless power struggle that has been on for the last three weeks.

As the situation threatens to blow into a Constitutional crisis, the ruling coalition has vociferously questioned the Governor’s power to issue such directions.

However, before adjourning the House on Friday, Speaker Ramesh Kumar extracted a “commitment” from the coalition that the motion of confidence would reach finality on Monday, even as he made it clear that it would not be prolonged further under any circumstances.

With treasury benches insisting that the Speaker allow its long list of speakers to voice their feelings, questions are still being raised in political circles over whether voting on the motion will happen Monday also.

If the trust vote is not taken up on Monday, all eyes will be on the next move by the Governor, who has been keeping the Centre posted on the unfolding drama in the state.

Yeddyurappa said, “As Siddaramaiah, Speaker and Kumaraswamy have said that they will seek majority on Monday, I am 100 per cent confident that things will reach a conclusion.” “I am confident that tomorrow is the last day of the Kumaraswamy government,” he told reporters here. “The SC has clearly said in its order that under no circumstances should the 15 MLAs staying in Mumbai be compelled to attend the current assembly session,” he said.

If he fails to prove majority on the floor of the House, Kumaraswamy will have to tender the resignation, following which the procedure to form an alternative government will be kick-started.

Yeddyurappa has claimed that the Congress-JD(S) coalition had just 98 legislators and it has lost majority, while the BJP led by him, with 106 MLAs, was in a comfortable position to form an alternative government.

As many as 16 MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from JDS — had resigned, while independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh have withdrawn their support to the coalition government, putting the government to the precipice. One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted, saying he would support the government.

The ruling combine’s strength is 117 — Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker. With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker.

If the resignations of 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and three from JDS) are accepted or if they stay away, the ruling coalition’s tally will plummet to 101, (excluding the Speaker) reducing the government to a minority.

BJP’s strength is also likely to come down to 106, as Shankar who has extended support to the saffron party will not attend the session, according to sources.

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