The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Chief Minister elect B S Yediyurappa is set to win the trust in the Karnataka Assembly on Monday with Speaker Ramesh Kumar disqualifying 14 more rebel MLAs on Sunday, taking the total of disqualified MLAs to 17.
This brings the effective strength of the House to 208 and the half way mark to 104. The BJP has 105 members. It also has the support of one independent. The other independent has been disqualified.
Immediately after the fall of the previous H D Kumaraswamy Government after the trust vote, the Speaker had disqualified three rebel MLAs, two from Congress and one independent who merged his party with the Congress and then rebelled .
Among the 17 disqualified now, 14 are from the Congress and three are from the Janata Dal (S). The Speaker has ruled that they cannot contest election till the end of the term of the Assembly.
His action is bound to be challenged in court as he has disqualified MLAs who have already resigned, that too without giving them adequate notice to explain their stand. His ruling that the disqualified MLAs cannot contest till the end of the term of the present Assembly is also liable to be challenged as the 10th schedule provides only for six months bar on contesting election for the MLA disqualified for defection, which includes even resigning from a party on which he got elected.
The MLAs who were disqualified today are Byrathi Basavaraj (Congress), Munirathna (Congress), ST Somashekar (Congress), Roshan Baig (Congress), Anand Singh (Congress), K Gopalaiah (JD Narayana Gowda (JDS), MTB Nagaraj (Congress), BC Patil (Congress), A H Vishwanath (JDS), Prathap Gouda Patil (Congress), Dr Sudhakar (Congress), Shivaram Hebbar (Congress) and Shrimant Patil (Congress).
The last MLA in the list, Shrimant Patil, was hospitalised when he was put up in a star hotel in Mumbai along with other rebels during the drama that preceded the fall of the Kumaraswamy government. Speaking to reporters, the Speaker said: "BS Yediyurappa has asked me to oversee vote of confidence tomorrow. The Finance bill is set to lapse on July 31. I appeal to all MLAs to appear for the session for the confidence motion."
Asked why he had taken this decision on a Sunday, he said: "To allow motion of confidence vote to be taken up for consideration, my staff has been in office both on Saturday and Sunday. I, therefore, have to make my pronouncements today." He rejected the four weeks time sought by rebel MLAs against disqualification petitions filed by Congress and JD(S) leaders and disqualified the remaining 14 rebel MLAs.
The BJP condemned his decision. A S Patil Nadahalli, BJP leader, said: "the Speaker's decision is illegal and undemocratic. The MLAs met him and gave the resignation. Their signatures were voluntary and genuine ".
Congress leader Siddaramaiah has, however, welcomed the Speaker's decision. He said: "This will send strong signals for all the representatives in the country who might fall for @BJP4India's trap."
The Speaker has gone by the precedent set by Tamil Nadu Speaker P Dhanapal when he disqualified 18 pro-Dinakaran AIADMK legislators after they petitioned the Governor for change of Chief Minister . Dhanapal, however, gave due 21-day notice to the rebel MLAs and his decision therefore was upheld by the Madras High Court by a two to one ruling.
The majority decision said the Speaker’s decision was subject to limited review that is to see that he had followed due process. When nine BJP dissident MLAs petitioned the Governor to change Yediyurappa during his third term as Chief Minister, the Supreme Court quashed the Speaker’s decision on the ground that he disqualified the rebels without notice and called the trust within six days and declared him the winner.
On the same ground the disqualified MLAs can move court and get a stay. That will mean no by-election for the 17 seats if the court grants till disposal of the case as had happened in Tamil Nadu.
In any case, once Yediyurappa wins the trust vote, a no-confidence motion cannot be brought against him for the next six months.
Though the BJP for the record has protested the Speaker’s decision, the disqualification of 17 rebels will free Yediyurappa from giving them a berth in his Ministry till they get over the legal hurdle. That will not happen any time soon.