Supreme Court order on Karnataka crisis jolt to shaky Kumaraswamy govt, allows rebel MLAs to escape disqualification as members of House
The court has ruled that 16 Karnataka MLAs can’t be forced to attend proceedings of the House, they can’t be forced to take part in the confidence vote and the three-line whip issued by the Congress and JD(S) to vote in favour of the government does not apply to them. This, in effect, would make them escape from disqualification proceedings as members of the House.
A year ago, JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy broke down at a ceremony organised to felicitate his anointment as the Karnataka chief minister. He used a red hand towel to wipe his tears, which currently has its own symbolism, red-flagging the inherent contradictions his coalition government was facing. The crutches were pulling in different directions.
#WATCH: Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy breaks down at an event in Bengaluru; says 'You are standing with bouquets to wish me, as one of your brother became CM & you all are happy, but I'm not. I know the pain of coalition govt. I became Vishkanth&swallowed pain of this govt' (14.07) pic.twitter.com/cQ8f90KkFT
— ANI (@ANI) July 15, 2018
A year later when he has to seek a difficult confidence vote on the floor of Karnataka Assembly, it is worthwhile to recall his words: "You are standing with bouquets to wish me, as one of your brother became CM & you all are happy, but I'm not. I know the pain of coalition govt. I became Vishkanth&swallowed pain of this govt. (sic)"
The self-proclaimed 'vishkanth' knows that he has had too much of 'vish' but the poison has spread to areas beyond his control, putting a serious question mark on his longevity as a chief minister. Despite the pressures of a reluctant coalition, Kumaraswamy had hoped that the current Karnataka government will survive at least for a year, till the parliamentary elections were over and the fate of his government will then depend on the outcome of polls.
Currently, Kumaraswamy's position is not enviable at all. His party JD(S), and his senior alliance partner Congress, received severe thrashing in Lok Sabha elections. Kumaraswamy's father, the "humble farmer", party patriarch and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda lost the elections and his son Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost the elections. He is surviving in the post but has no powers. For the past fortnight, Kumaraswamy was hardly seen firefighting. Even as three of his party MLAs deserted him, he hardly seems to be making an effort to bring them back.
It is the state Congress leadership which is desperately trying to save the government. Their last hope was Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar who had been sitting on the resignations of 16 MLAs (13 of Congress and three of JDS) but the Supreme Court has now dashed unrealistic optimism.
The apex court order (technically should please all the parties and persons concerned) has ruled in favour of the rebel MLAs (backed by the BJP) and the Speaker but in practical term, but it is a jolt to the shaky Kumaraswamy government.
The court has ruled that 16 MLAs can’t be forced to attend proceedings of the House, they can’t be forced to take part in the confidence vote and the three-line whip issued by the Congress and JD(S) to vote in favour of the government does not apply to them. This, in effect, would make them escape from disqualification proceedings as members of the House. Their absence would mean that effective strength of the Assembly is reduced to 208 and the strength of the Congress-JD(S) coalition reduced to 101 including the Speaker. The BJP has 105 members on its side.
Kumaraswamy’s fate will be sealed on Thursday.
The Speaker may continue to bask in the glory that the Supreme Court has not given any time frame for him to decide on resignations or disqualification of 16 MLAs. But if Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) government loses the trust vote on Thursday, then the fate of Ramesh Kumar as the Speaker will hang in balance. The Opposition is entitled to move a no-confidence motion against the Speaker even before confidence vote is taken or elect a new Speaker after the new government (depending on the outcome of trust vote) is sworn in. The new Speaker may accept the resignations of 16 MLAs or he can sit over over the issue indefinitely (like in the case of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh).
Interestingly, after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on Wednesday, Kumaraswamy’s pictures seeking blessings of almighty at a temple was beamed on television channels. He perhaps is hoping against hope of divine intervention. Coincidentally, his arch-rival and former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, too, landed at a temple to seek divine blessing for self.
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