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Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar is giving some breathing time for the ruling coalition
Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar is giving some breathing time for the ruling coalition
Politicking

Karnataka Speaker Takes It Slow

His decision gives time to the Congress & JDS to scramble and keep their boat afloat

Imran Qureshi

Karnataka assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar appears to be in no hurry to decide immediately on the resignation of a dozen MLAs from the membership of the assembly.

He would be seeking legal opinion on whether the submission of letters to his office was adequate for him to decide on their resignation. This would give some breathing space to the Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition government to convince its angry loyalist MLAs to return to the fold.

“I am seeking opinion of a former advocate general and legal experts and I shall strictly go by the rule book,” Ramesh Kumar said as he entered the Vidhana Soudha to go to his chambers.

On Saturday, 11 MLAs had visited his office when he was not present to submit their letters of resignations from the membership of the assembly. MLA Anand Singh had already submitted his resignation letter on July 01.

If he accepts the resignations, the coalition government will have lost the majority it has enjoyed since coming to office on 15 May 2018.

The Congress has decided to submit the petition for disqualification of all those who have resigned from the membership of the assembly. “We are seeking their disqualification for six years. There is no deadline for the MLAs to return. I am requesting them to come back. Otherwise, you will have to face consequences,” Congress leader Siddaramaiah said after the Congress legislature party meeting.

The question then arises whether the assembly needs to meet on July 12 since the ball would be in the court of Governor Vajubhai Vala who, interestingly, spent an unusual “two hours” chatting with the dozen legislators who went to meet him after submitting their resignation letters in the office of the Speaker.

In fact, deputy chief minister Dr G Parameshwara has found it extraordinary that the Governor should have spent so much time with the MLAs who, technically, should have left it to the Speaker to follow the norms governing resignations instead of placing their copies before the occupant at the Raj Bhavan.

Technically, if all the resignation letters are accepted by the Speaker, the strength of the 224-member assembly would be reduced to 212. The half-way mark would be 106.

And the resignation of the two ministers, H Nagesh and R Shankar, from the ministry takes the number of the BJP up from 105 to 107.

Both Nagesh and Shankar are Independent members of the assembly and were sworn in as ministers 21 days ago in a bid to consolidate the base of the coalition. But, the leadership of the Congress as well as the JDS did not think that it would trigger the anger among the loyalist MLAs.

“How do we tolerate this? The Congress leadership at the state level just ignored our contribution to the party and decided to take those who had no experience even as legislators, compared to us, and gave them ministerial posts,” said one of the loyalist MLAs who has resigned, on condition of anonymity.

The two Independent MLAs have been the “Aaya Rams, Gaya Rams” (loosely translated to easy come, easy go) in the last one year. They have shifted from the Congress to the BJP and vice versa before as well. “We thought they would not turn back to their old ways. But, they have also decided to let us down,” rued a senior Congress leader.

He is one of the ministers who went by the Kamaraj plan to facilitate reconstitution of the ministry to accommodate the rebel MLAs. The resignation of the Congress and the JDS ministers was to signal the loyalist MLAs that the leadership was serious about making space for them and that they “should reconsider their stand” as one of the core team members put it.

In fact, this is one reason why the planned petition to the Speaker seeking disqualification of the rebel MLAs will be timed by the Congress and the JDS. “We certainly don’t want our angry party loyalists to be disqualified. We are very confident that they will return,” said one member of the core team.

But the catch is that the BJP has more MLAs up its sleeve to push the coalition government off the cliff. “At least, ten of them are in touch with us. They will come forward once we know what the Speaker does,” said a BJP leader on condition of anonymity.