Karnataka crisis: Likely scenarios in the Assembly today

Former Chief Minister and Congress JD(S) coordination committee chairman Siddaramaiah with party MLAs arrives to take part in the State Assembly session at Vidhan Soudha in Bengaluru, Monday, July 15, 2019. (PTI Photo/Shailendra Bhojak)(PTI7_15_2019_000114B)

The floor test in the Karnataka Assembly today (July 18) may put an end to the political uncertainty of the last two weeks. The Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka led by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is likely to move a confidence motion to prove majority in the state assembly. If there is a discussion on the motion of confidence, the voting will take place only after its conclusion, which could even extend beyond today.

Crisis hit the coalition government after 13 MLAs from Congress and 3 MLAs from the JD(S) resigned from the Assembly. The speaker is yet to decide on their resignations.

With the resignations, the strength of the House is down to 209 in the 225-member Assembly (including one nominated member). Rendering the half-way mark to 105.

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As of today, the Congress-JD(S) government has the support of 101 MLA (including one nominated member’s vote) and the BJP has 105 members in its fold and enjoys the support of two independent MLAs.

Here are the likely scenarios:

Scenario 1: As the SC ruled that rebel MLAs can’t be compelled to attend the Assembly, all the 16 MLAs may not be present during voting. Considering that all other MLAs attend the Assembly and vote in favour of the ruling government, Congress-JD(S) will have 101 votes, 4-members short of the majority mark. The BJP will then claim to form the new government as it has 105, enough to cross the half-way mark.

Scenario 2: If the CM does not move a motion of confidence, the opposition BJP is likely to table a motion of no-confidence. Cross-voting or abstaining from voting by at least four BJP members while being present inside the Assembly (any member) may save the ruling coalition, though this will attract the anti-defection law.

Scenario 3: It is not enough to have a majority on paper. Every member has to necessarily be present in the House during voting. If a few members from either side do not turn up, the result could go any way, where everything depends on how many members were present and voting at that point.

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On Speaker’s decision: The Supreme Court on Wednesday (July 17) ruled that Karnataka Speaker was free to decide on the status of rebel MLAs and that the discretion of the Speaker should not be fettered by any direction from the court.

Considering the facts in hand, the Speaker can either accept or reject the resignations or disqualify members as per the anti-defection law. His decision, any which way, will not have a bearing on the floor test. The consequences of the Speaker’s decision will be felt only by the rebel legislators.

There is no specific period mentioned under the law as to how many years the MLAs will be barred from poll in case of disqualification. However, the Congress party wants them barred from contesting elections for at least six years.

A disqualified member cannot be appointed as a minister in the new BJP government that may replace the existing Congress-JD (S) coalition until he contests and wins an election. If the Speaker accepts the resignations of the rebels, they can become ministers in the next government on the condition they win elections within the next six months.

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