New Delhi: The rebel MLAs from the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) who were on Wednesday allowed by the Supreme Court to contest the bypolls for 15 seats next month are likely to be given tickets by the Bharatiya Janata Party, sources have said.
According to sources, the saffron party will field all the MLAs whose disqualification by Speaker KR Ramesh in July was upheld by a three-judge bench of the apex court, despite a brewing rebellion in the party’s own ranks against the kind of leeway offered to the turncoats in order to save the BS Yediyurappa government.
Sources told News18 that the BJP knows that the “the MLAs had jumped ship to them for a reason” and would now reward them by fielding them in the bypolls to be held on December 5.
Chief Minister Yediyurappa and his deputy, CN Ashwathnarayan, confirmed that the disqualified MLAs will join the BJP on Thursday in Bengaluru. "They (disqualified legislators) have expressed interest to join BJP and have met our senior leaders. They will join the party," Ashwathnarayan told reporters.
Yediyurappa welcomed the verdict and said it was against the "conspiracy" of Ramesh Kumar and Congress leader Siddaramaiah. Expressing confidence that the BJP win all the 15 seats, he said the party would decide on giving tickets to the disqualified MLAs.
Elections will not take place at two out of the 17 vacant seats — Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Maski — where separate election petitions challenging the results of the 2018 elections are pending in Karnataka High Court.
BJP leaders said they do not expect a rebellion on more than two or three seats and expressed confidence that the party would win 10-12 of the 15 seats going to polls next month.
The BJP currently has 106 MLAs in the Assembly, including one Independent, in the while the Opposition combine of the Congress and JD-S has 101. The Karnataka Assembly has a strength of 224, with 17 seats lying vacant. The BJP will have to win a minimum six out of 15 seats, and seven out of 17 to keep its majority.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the disqualification of the 17 MLAs on orders of the then Speaker, but struck down the portion of the order of then Speaker by which the legislators were disqualified till the end of the term of the 15th Karnataka Assembly.
"We uphold the orders of the Speaker on disqualification," a three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari said. "However, we have struck down the second part of the order which says disqualification till end of life of the current assembly," the bench said.
The court said its verdict is based on facts and circumstance of the case and does not interfere in the Speaker's power to disqualify members. It pronounced its verdict on petitions filed by the disqualified MLAs challenging the orders of Kumar to disqualify them.
Speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the 17 legislators -- 14 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) -- ahead of the trust vote on July 23. The then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy resigned after losing the trust vote, which paved the way for the BJP-led government in the state under Yediyurappa.
The disqualified legislators welcomed the verdict.
"The Supreme court allowing us to contest election is important to us. We welcome it. We are politicians, this verdict is important to us," said AH Vishwanath.
The disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar and MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar (all Congress). JD(S) members who faced action are K Gopalaiah, Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.
Former Speaker Ramesh Kumar also heaved a sigh of relief over the verdict.
"The Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification -- to that extent, it's a sigh of relief (for me). On the issue of tenure (of disqualification), the Supreme Court has not agreed to my interpretation I will speak on that after going through the text of the judgement," Kumar said.
The BJP had a smooth sailing in winning the trust vote on July 29, as the disqualification of the 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs by the Speaker reduced the effective strength of the 225-member Assembly to 208. The magic figure for the simple majority was 105, equivalent to the strength of the BJP, which also commands the support of an Independent.
(With inputs from PTI)