The Karnataka Assembly on Friday witnessed high drama once again. Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar adjourned the House shortly after 8 pm without a floor test. The trust vote will now be conducted on Monday, July 22.
Kumar said enough discussion had taken place and he wanted to adjourn the House for the day. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy agreed with the Speaker. “I have made preliminary submission,” he said. “We can conclude [the trust vote] on Monday.”
Governor Vajubhai Vala had set 1.30 pm as the deadline to hold the trust vote. As the House failed to carry out the process, the governor again wrote a letter to Kumaraswamy, asking for a floor test before 6 pm.
“I have received a second love letter,” the chief minister said in the Assembly, referring to the governor’s missive. “I have respect for the governor. But the second love letter from the governor has hurt me. He only came to know about horse trading 10 days ago? I leave the decision on the floor test to you [Speaker]. It won’t be directed by Delhi. I request you to protect me from the letter sent by the governor.”
Congress MLA Krishna Byre Gowda said the governor gave the Bharatiya Janata Party 15 days to prove a majority in May 2018 but gave the ruling coalition just 15 hours to prove its strength in the Assembly. “If this doesn’t smack of conspiracy what does?” he asked. Other Congress MLAs, meanwhile, chanted “go back governor!” in the House.
Earlier in the day, legislators of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition questioned Vala’s power to issue such a direction and accused him of partisanship. Kumaraswamy quoted a Supreme Court judgement that said the governor cannot act as the legislature’s ombudsman.
The Congress alleged that the rebel lawmakers were being held captive. Senior party leader HK Patil requested the Speaker to create an atmosphere conducive for the legislators who are “holed up outside the city” to attend the session. But the Speaker clarified that no MLA had sought protection from him. “No one has come seeking protection...nor have their families come...so the issue ends there,” Kumar said.
Earlier in the day, Kumaraswamy alleged that the BJP had offered Rs 40 crore to Rs 50 crore to lure away the coalition’s legislators. He also said the BJP had its own hotel to hold the MLAs. “We know how the MLAs resigned, please take them and form your government,” he added. He also wondered how long the legislators would stay in Mumbai.
Janata Dal (Secular) MLA Srinivas Gowda accused the BJP of offering him money to join the party. The Speaker said the BJP should file a case against Srinivas Gowda if the claims were false. Yeddyurappa told reporters that the party would file a breach of privilege motion against the Janata Dal (Secular) leader.
Bharatiya Janata Party lawmakers, on the other hand, said the debate on the motion of confidence cannot be dragged on forever. “The sanctity of the vote of confidence is lost if this happens,” said BJP leader Suresh Kumar.
“Please conclude, however long it takes today.” state party chief BS Yeddyurappa told Kumar. “Governor’s last letter said the vote should finish today,” he said. “People on our side will sit peacefully till late in the night. Let it take however long it takes and it will also mean that we can respect governor’s direction.”
On Thursday, BJP legislators had stayed in the Assembly all night in protest against the Speaker’s decision to not hold a floor test. The ruling coalition’s strength in the 225-member Assembly is 118, including the disgruntled legislators and a nominated member. With the support of two Independent legislators, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs.
As many as 16 MLAs have resigned from the Assembly this month, bringing the coalition’s effective strength down to 102. However, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar has not yet accepted the resignations.
Meanwhile, Kumaraswamy filed a plea in the Supreme Court, against the court’s verdict that the 15 rebel MLAs cannot be ordered to vote in the floor test. The chief minister said the Janata Dal (Secular) has a right to issue a whip to its lawmakers. Karnataka Pradesh Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao also filed a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking clarification about the court’s interim order. Rao too said that the party has the right to issue whip to its MLAs.