Karnataka faceoff: Governor’s 2nd deadline passes, Speaker fixes Monday for trust vote

Ananthakrishnan G, Johnson T A
Ruling MLAs in the House on Friday. (PTI)

As Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala issued a second deadline to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, directing him to complete the trust vote by the end of the day, Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar Friday extended confidence motion proceedings until Monday after Congress-JD(S) coalition MLAs and Kumaraswamy sought more time to discuss the motion.

While the Opposition BJP insisted the trust be completed Friday, the Speaker stated that the debate on the trust vote should conclude by July 22 and underscored that the Chief Minister must face the trust vote Monday.

Earlier, in a plea to the Supreme Court, Kumaraswamy questioned Governor Vala s deadlines to the Karnataka Assembly and also sought clarification on the top court s direction that 15 rebel coalition MLAs cannot be compelled to attend the proceedings of the House.

In his application through advocate Sunil Fernandes, Kumaraswamy said: It is respectfully submitted that no such
direction could have been issued by the Hon ble Governor when the confidence motion has already been initiated… the Hon ble Governor cannot dictate to the House the manner in which the debate of the confidence
motion has to be taken up.

However, the Hon ble Governor has again sent a communication that the trust vote should be held before 6 pm on 19.07.2019, his plea said, adding that the Governor s directions are completely contrary to the well-settled law laid down by this Hon ble Court in relation to the Governor s powers.

Former Karnataka chief minister & BJP State President BS Yeddyurappa speaks during Assembly Session at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, Friday, July 19, 2019. (PTI)

Kumaraswamy, and state Congress chief Dinesh Gundu Rao in a separate plea, also sought clarification on the SC s interim order of July 17, when the court left it open to the Karnataka Speaker to decide on the resignations of 15 rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs but also ordered that the MLAs should not be compelled to attend the ongoing session of the Assembly.

The court was hearing a plea by the rebels against Speaker Ramesh Kumar not accepting their resignations. If the resignations are accepted or the MLAs disqualified, the numbers of the coalition will drop from 117 to 101 compared to the BJP s 105 in the 224-member House where the halfway mark is 113.

Referring to the July 17 order, Kumaraswamy and Rao said it vitally affected their constitutional rights…under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection Law) .

Bengaluru: Karnataka Assembly Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar during Assembly Session at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, Friday, July 19, 2019. (PTI)

Kumaraswamy sought clarification from the court that the July 17 direction that the MLAs should not be compelled to attend and instead be given an option to attend or not attend does not refer to the rights of a political party to proceed under para 2(1)(b) of the Tenth Schedule. The provision deals with disqualification of members who defy the whip.

In Bengaluru, Governor Vala told Kumaraswamy in a letter Friday: I am receiving various reports about the attempts being made for horse-trading. This can be averted only and only if the exercise of conducting the floor test is conducted at the earliest and without any delay…I hereby require conclusion of the process of floor test today itself.

On receiving the Governor s letter, Kumaraswamy requested the Speaker to guide the House on the trust vote proceedings, which were awaiting a debate involving 26 coalition legislators who signed up to participate in the discussion.

Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy with his deputy G Parameshwara during Assembly Session at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, Friday, July 19, 2019. (PTI)

There is a message from the Governor. I don t know what will happen, whether Governor rule will be imposed or something like that, but please allow us to discuss the motion. Please give protection, Kumaraswamy told the Speaker.

Leader of the Opposition and BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa said: We have respect for the Speaker but the Governor has said that the trust vote must be completed today so, let us go on all night to finish it.

The Chief Minister, however, said he could not understand the urgency being shown by the Opposition to circumvent norms for conducting the trust vote. Vajpayee debated for nearly 10 days in 1999, he said. Now the Governor has woken up and says there is horse-trading and that he got complaints. He has not seen BJP members whisking away our legislators,

He also cited a Supreme Court order from 2016, in a case related to Arunachal Pradesh, and said the Speaker must decide on the trust vote since he is the custodian of the House and that the Governor must stay aloof.

There is no stipulated time for a vote of confidence and there have been instances when proceedings have gone on for four to 10 days. Let all the members speak. There is no escape from the vote of confidence and we will not run away but discussions must happen, said Congress leader in the Assembly Siddaramaiah.

Law Minister Krishna Byregowda argued that the Governor cannot intervene in the legislative Assembly in the present scenario since the leader of the House has moved the vote of confidence and the motion is a property of the House. He said, The Speaker has to run the House as per requests of the members of the House… The Opposition is disrupting the entire constitutional machinery in its greed for power.

The discussions in the Assembly also referred to offers of money allegedly made to some MLAs by BJP leaders to defect. Srinivas Gowda, a JD(S) MLA, said he was given an advance of Rs 5 crore and promised Rs 30 crore by BJP leaders to defect while JD(S) minister Sa Ra Mahesh said one JD(S) MLAs, who is among 16 rebels who have resigned since July 6, had spoken of an offer of money to move to the BJP.