New Delhi: The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka, on the brink of collapse, managed another reprieve on Friday after it twice ignored Governor Vajubhai Vala’s deadlines to stave off a floor test to prove its majority in the state Assembly.
As the Assembly failed to take up voting on the confidence motion to decide the fate of the government, the political drama will spill over to the next week after Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar adjourned the House till Monday morning. The crisis was set off by resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling coalition a fortnight ago.
Before adjourning the house on Friday night, Kumar made it clear that a finality would be put to the motion of confidence moved by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy on Monday and the matter would not be prolonged under any circumstances, to which the government agreed.
Kumaraswamy and the Congress also moved the Supreme Court, accusing the governor of interfering with the Assembly proceedings when the debate on the trust vote was underway and sought clarification on its July 17 order causing hindrance in issuing whip to the legislators.
The court had held that the MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the Assembly proceedings. Kumaraswamy told the court that the governor cannot dictate the House on the manner in which the debate of confidence motion has to take place.
In his second letter to Kumaraswamy, Vala expressed "prima facie satisfaction" that the government has lost its majority confidence of the House.
"When the allegations of horse-trading are widely made and I am receiving many complaints, it is constitutionally imperative that the floor test be completed without any delay and today itself. I, therefore, require you to prove your majority and complete and conclude the floor test procedure today," Vala said in the second letter since Thursday.
The governor said he had received several reports about attempts being made for horse-trading. "This can be averted only if the exercise of conducting the floor test is conducted at the earliest and without any delay," the governor said.
While speaking on the confidence motion, Kumaraswamy said, "I have received the second love letter from the governor. He has got 'gnanodaya' (awareness) now. He talks about horse-trading in the letter... was he not aware of it till now?"
Vala had earlier fixed a second deadline of 1.30 pm, then another of 6 pm, asking Kumaraswamy to complete the floor test by then. The House was also locked in an intense debate on when the trust vote process should be completed.
"Lot of discussion has happened; I want to close it (trust motion process) today," said the Speaker. "Caesar's wife should be above suspicion; I cannot be guilty of dragging proceedings." Kumaraswamy said that the process can be concluded on Monday.
However, BJP leader Suresh Kumar said the sanctity of the trust vote would be lost if it was dragged on and asked for the process to be completed on Friday itself. State BJP chief BS insisted that his party lawmakers would wait until midnight if needed.
The ruling coalition appeared to be in no hurry to face the trust vote, with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah earlier in the day saying the debate may go on till Monday after which the voting would take place since many MLAs have given their names to participate in the debate.
As the deadline neared, the coalition members questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction, with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as an ombudsman of the legislature.
Kumaraswamy said he would not criticise the governor and requested the Speaker to decide whether the governor can set a deadline. Allegations of bribery also emerged during the debate, with the ruling coalition ministers and members targeting the BJP for its alleged toppling game.
"Legislators were offered Rs 40-50 crore to lure them; whose money is it?" asked Kumaraswamy, hitting out at the BJP even as the opposition members remained unruffled apparently to ensure there was no disorder that would disturb voting.
JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda claimed he was offered a bribe of Rs 5 crore by the BJP to defect to bring down the government. Minister Sa Ra Mahesh alleged that JDS former state president Vishwanath had told him that he needs money as he has election-related loans of Rs 28 crore.
Krishna Byre Gowda alleged hundreds of crores of were being pumped in to bring down the government.
In his speech, Kumaraswamy accused BJP of resorting to ways to circumvent the anti-defection law. He asked BJP why it is in a hurry to end the trust vote debate in one day if it was sure of its numbers.
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 on the edge.
One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted, 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 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and 3 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.
(With inputs from PTI)