Karnataka Political Drama Moves to Supreme Court after Speaker Buys Time to ‘Verify’ Resignations of Rebel MLAs Despite Deadline
New Delhi: The political turmoil in Karnataka spilled over to another day as Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar, despite a Supreme Court order, ruled out any immediate decision on the resignation of rebel MLAs in the crisis-hit ruling JD(S)-Congress coalition, saying he cannot be expected to work at “lightning speed”.
As suspense mounted over the Speaker's course of action after 10 rebel MLAs personally submitted their fresh resignations to him in Bengaluru, Kumar said the letters were in the “right format” but he would examine whether they are "voluntary and genuine".
The 10 MLAs, who were flown in by two special flights to Bengaluru from Mumbai, took a luxury bus from the HAL airport to the Vidhana Soudha amid tight security. Some of them returned to Mumbai where they were holed up in a luxury hotel for the past few days.
In total, 16 MLAs (13 from the Congress and three from the JDS) have resigned over the last week, pushing the coalition government to the brink of collapse. Two independent MLAs have also withdrawn support to the 13-month-old coalition government.
After the Congress, the JD(S) said the party has also approached the Speaker seeking disqualification of three of its legislators.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy reiterated that the coalition in the state would remain steady despite efforts to destabilise it.
Congress -JDS coalition in the state is going strong despite the efforts to destabilize. We are confident and prepared for a smooth and fruitful conduct of legislative sessions. 1/2— H D Kumaraswamy (@hd_kumaraswamy) July 11, 2019
The monsoon session of the Karnataka legislature will begin on Friday.
Supreme Court Orders Immediate Closure
Earlier on Thursday, the Supreme Court asked the Speaker to decide “forthwith” about the resignation of 10 rebel MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the Speaker has to arrive at his decision by Friday, when the court takes up the plea of the rebel MLAs.
Hours after the order was passed, the Speaker moved the apex court for modification of the direction asking him to decide the issue of the resignation in the course of the day.
However, the bench said the order had already been passed in the morning and Kumar’s application would be taken up on Friday along with the plea of the rebel MLAs.
"Why should I resign? What is the necessity for me to resign now?" he asked.
Rural development minister Krishna Byre Gowda said that political developments were discussed in the Cabinet meeting on Thursday. “What was discussed and decided was that the government is in a crisis situation, there is no doubt about it, various reasons for it and steps to solve it was discussed,” he said.
'Can't Work at Lightning Speed'
At a press briefing on Thursday evening, Speaker Kumar said he will take a "just decision which may be of convenience to some and inconvenience to some".
"The Supreme Court has not asked me to decide in any particular manner," he said. "The MLAs had come. They said they want to resign. I said they can give...they asked me to accept it. It cannot be like that. I will have to see whether it is genuine or voluntary and be convinced."
Kumar said "the proceedings of today have been videographed” and will be sent to the Supreme Court Registrar General.
“Should I have worked at lightning speed? For whose sake? What about the rules, the people? I only live by the Constitution....I am not acting in haste. My obligation is to the people of this state and the Constitution," he said. "The process is not about who is to be saved and who is to be persecuted. That is not my job as a Speaker."
As per the Karnataka Legislature Rules, intended resignation should be "in perfect format", he said.
"Unfortunately, eight of the 13 letters that reached my office (last week) were not in the format," the speaker said. Suspended Congress MLA Roshan Bagi had also quit earlier this week.
"The MLAs have submitted resignation in right format now. I will have to examine whether resignations are voluntary and genuine," he said. "I will have to think all night".
Meanwhile, senior BJP leader and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi asked the Speaker to take a decision at the earliest and not drag the ongoing constitutional crisis in the state.
Like the Congress, the JDS also swiftly moved to disqualify its three rebel MLAs — AH Vishwanath, K Gopalaiah and Narayana Gowda — but Kumar said he cannot take cognisance of the plea as it was not filed in the proper format.
Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah and KPCC chief Dinesh Gundu Rao also appeared before the Speaker in connection with a petition they had moved seeking disqualification of rebel party MLAs. The party, however, did not move any petition against seven-time MLA Ramalinga Reddy, and said he was an "exception."
Speaking to reporters earlier, Kumar said the MLAs approaching the apex court had made things look murky.
(With inputs from PTI)