Come Monday, and the HD Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JDS coalition government in Karnataka will face a trust vote that would decide its fate — that is, if all goes as per schedule.
Wracked by a raft of resignations by rebel MLAs, the ruling coalition is making all out efforts to win them back while trying to prolong the confidence motion, having defied two deadlines set by Governor Vajubhai Vala on Friday.
Kumaraswamy and the Congress would look for relief from the Supreme Court, having accused the Governor of interfering with the Assembly proceedings during the trust vote debate, and having sought clarification on its July 17 order, which they said caused hindrance in issuing whip to the legislators.
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.
As the first deadline neared on Friday, the ruling coalition vociferously questioned the Governor’s power to issue such a direction, with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a Governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature.
The Governor’s second missive was dismissed as a “love letter” by Kumaraswamy, who criticised Vala for talking about horse-trading now “when it had been happening” for the last several days.
On Sunday, the two parties held separate meetings with their MLAs in hotels.
Karnataka: Congress Legislative Party meeting underway at Taj Vivanta in Bengaluru. Floor test in Karnataka Assembly to be held tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/E7fr0LOAJD
— ANI (@ANI) July 21, 2019
Horse-trading charges fly thick and fast
Before the House was adjourned on Friday, Congress leaders, who had been silent on BJP’s Operation Kamala so far, came out on record to say “BJP offered them money”.
JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda from Kolar named three BJP leaders — Ashwathnarayan, CP Yogeshwara and SR Vishwanath — of offering ₹5 crore to switch sides.
“I refused to accept, but they left behind ₹5 crore. Later, they offered ₹30 crore,” Gowda said, adding that it was just an advance.
Another JDS minister Sa Ra Mahesh alleged that former JDS state president H Vishwanath had an election-related loan of ₹28 crore and the BJP offered to clear his loans if he switched sides.
Rahim Khan, minister for Youth Empowerment, said that the BJP, besides offering money to him, promised to make him a minister. “I was told I would be the first Muslim BJP minister in the state,” he said.
Congress members even filed a police complaint alleging BJP abducted MLA Shrimant Patil who went missing from the resort where party MLAs stayed before the trust vote.
Questioning the need and the circumstances which led him to move the motion of confidence, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy said, “Legislators were offered ₹40-50 crore by the BJP. Whose money is it? The BJP tried to circumvent the anti-defection law and conspired to bring down this government.”
BJP legislator C T Ravi, however, questioned the allegations and said, “The MLAs who were offered money could have testified before the Anti-Corruption Bureau. But they did not. Why?”
Karnataka: BJP Legislative Party meeting underway at Ramada Hotel in Bengaluru. pic.twitter.com/YPvansUjC4
— ANI (@ANI) July 21, 2019
Prolong and Bring Back Rebels
On Friday, Speaker Ramesh Kumar extracted a “commitment” from the coalition that the motion of confidence would reach finality on Monday even though treasury benches insisted that the Speaker allow its long list of speakers to voice their feelings.
If the ruling coalition tries to delay the proceedings on Monday also, 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.
According to sources, attempts were made to woo back the rebel MLAs, but it did not yield much results as rebel MLAs, claiming that 13 of them were together, have made it clear that they are firm on their resignation and there was no question of going back. This firm decision by the rebels has made it increasingly difficult for the Congress-JD(S) coalition to woo them back and get the requisite numbers to sail through in the assembly.
BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa Sunday exuded faith that Monday would be the last day of the Kumaraswamy-led coalition government.
“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,” Yeddyurappa told reporters here.
— ANI (@ANI) July 21, 2019
He alleged that the ruling coalition was unnecessarily passing time despite knowing well that whip issued against the ruling coalition MLAs was of no use.
“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. It has clearly stated that it is left to them (MLAs) whether they want to attend it or not,” the former chief minister said.
He emphasised that the whip has no value in such a situation, which the ruling party leaders too know.
Meanwhile, the BJP has left no stone unturned to keep its flock together ahead of the trust vote by herding its MLAs to a resort and has decided to wait and watch till Monday about the coalition and the Speaker’s commitment to complete the trust vote.
If the floor test is further delayed, it will worsen the political logjam, compelling BJP to approach the Governor and even move the apex court for intervention, party sources said.
On failing to prove majority on Monday, Kumaraswamy will have to tender the resignation, following which the procedure to form an alternative government will be kickstarted.
Yeddyurappa has already 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 his resignation, 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 the 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.
The coalition strength would fall further to 98 as claimed by Yeddyurappa, as two Congress MLAs are unlikely to attend due to health reasons, while BSP MLA Mahesh, is not showing up, amid reports he was keeping away as he has not received any directions from the party leader Mayawati on the stand to be taken on the trust vote.
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, fearing poaching by Congress as the Speaker has not accepted his request for his seating arrangement along with opposition.
(With inputs from agencies)