New Delhi: Two days after the collapse of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance government in the state, Karnataka Assembly speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on Thursday disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law, in a move that heightened the suspense over the exercise of government formation.
Addressing a press conference in Bengaluru, Kumar held that the resignation by the three MLAs — Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathalli and R Shankar — were "not voluntary and genuine". As a result, he proceeded to disqualify them under the anti-defection law with immediate effect till the end of the term of the current House in 2023.
The Speaker made it clear that Jarkiholi, Kumatalli and Shankar, disqualified under the anti-defection law, will be unable to contest or get elected till the end of the term of the present House.
"They have violated the provisions of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution (anti-defection law) and therefore are disqualified," he said, adding that they cease to be members from "this day" till the expiry of the current assembly in 2023.
Kumar said he would decide on both the matter of resignations and disqualification pleas pending before him in respect of the 14 other MLAs "in the next couple of days", which may prolong the political turmoil and have a bearing on government formation.
The 14-month-old Congress-JDS coalition government headed by HD Kumaraswamy collapsed on Tuesday after losing the vote of confidence in the Assembly, bringing to an end the three-week long power struggle triggered by the raft of resignations.
Kumar's pronouncement of the ruling on the disqualification pleas by the Congress and the JDS as well as the MLAs’ resignations in a phased manner is being seen as a tough message to other rebels, who are still holed in a Mumbai hotel and have remained adamant about not taking back their resignations.
Since Shankar, who was earlier recognised as an Independent in the assembly, had 'merged' his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) with the Congress, he also faced action as its member based on the petition by the Congress seeking his disqualification, Kumar explained.
He said that resignation was a "respectable terminology" while disqualification was "admonishing," emphasising that the anti-defection law could not be used as a "monstrous law".
"No by-election...nothing will work. This (Speaker’s office) is a quasi-judicial body," Kumar said, adding, "I know these matters will go to the court." On the remaining 14 cases, he said he is "holding them back" and it would require a "couple of days" for him to give his verdict.
Welcoming the ruling, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao called it a "victory of democracy."
Speaker #RameshKumar disqualifies 3 MLA’s, R Shankar, Ramesh Jarkiholi & Mahesh Kumatalli for the entire term of the present Karnataka Vidhana Sabha.Wholeheartedly welcome the verdict.#VictoryForDemocracy— Dinesh Gundu Rao / ದಿನೇಶ್ ಗುಂಡೂರಾವ್ (@dineshgrao) July 25, 2019
Welcoming the decision, former chief minister Siddaramaiah said, "Such stringent resolutions are essential for the protection of democracy."
Govt formation still unclear
Kumar said he first decided on the resignation, rejecting them as they were not voluntary and genuine "based on circumstances" and thereafter dealt with disqualification after considering "evidences and other orders".
Asked if the same yardstick would be used against other rebel MLAs, he said, "Wait and see."
"It is a hypothetical question," Kumar said, when asked whether the remaining MLAs could still come around and withdraw their resignation.
"It is the responsibility of all political parties that such impasse doesn't continue and constitutional crisis is not created and to see that the finance bill is passed," Kumar said.
The speaker had earlier said that if the Finance bill was not passed by July 31, the "government will come to a standstill and we will not be in a position to even pay salaries, such a necessity has come, what to do?"
Asked if the Finance Bill can be passed by a presidential order if the government is not formed by July 31, he said it cannot be done and either the suspension of the Assembly or President’s rule will have to be imposed.
Meanwhile, as it looked to the central leadership to take a shot at government formation, the BJP camp here was devoid of any major activity barring internal meetings held by party state unit chief BS Yeddyurappa, who is waiting in the wings for a fourth term as chief minister.
A group of Karnataka BJP leaders, including Jagdish Shettar, Arvind Limbavali, JC Madhuswamy, Basavaraj Bommai and Yeddyurappa's son Vijayendra, met party chief Amit Shah in New Delhi and reportedly discussed government formation.
Rebel Congress MLA Shivaram Hebbar, who returned home from Mumbai, where the disgruntled lawmakers were holed up, expressed confidence that the speaker who is a senior and experienced person will take right decision on their resignations.