‘Missing MLAs’ Gift Yeddyurappa CM’s Chair, But What’s Next?

After the Congress-JD(S) government lost the trust vote in Karnataka on Tuesday, 23 July, BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa is preparing take oath as chief minister for the second time in the 15th Karnataka Assembly. He had served as the chief minister of Karnataka for six days before HD Kumaraswamy, after the electorate of the state gave a fractured mandate.

Soon after the trust vote, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy submitted his resignation and the governor’s acceptance dissolved the government.

The collapse of the Congress-JD(S) led government has ensured that in the history of Karnataka, only three governments had finished a full five-year term.

The trust vote on Tuesday, 23 July was the culmination of six days of drama after Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy moved a confidence motion in the Assembly. After days of prolonged speeches by the coalition camp, the coalition lost the trust vote, While they got 99 votes, the BJP had the support of 105 MLAs.

The BJP to Meet Governor on Wednesday

According to senior BJP leader CT Ravi, the party will hold meeting of its legislators on Wednesday, 24 July and then meet the Governor to form the government.

The BJP’s victory in the trust vote was a result of 15 coalition MLAs tendering their resignation. One of the reasons for the coalition, which had already lost the number game, to drag on the trust vote for six days was to get these MLAs disqualified.

With the Congress-JD(S) losing power, several questions remain about what will happen to these MLAs?

When the trust vote took place, 20 MLAs were not present in the house. These MLAs include 15 rebel MLAs who have resigned – 12 from Congress and 3 from JDS, 2 Congress MLAs who abstained due to health reasons, 2 independent MLAs and the lone BSP MLA.

What About the MLAs Who Have Resigned?

The rebel MLAs submit their resignations to Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala.

Even though the government has lost the trust vote, the Assembly of legislators continue to exist. Ramesh Kumar is still the speaker of the house, until he is replaced by a speaker of the BJP’s choice after they form the government.

The matter of the resignations is still pending before Ramesh Kumar and he could take action against them. However, it is unlikely that these resignations will be accepted by Ramesh Kumar, since new government is in the process taking over power and he had delayed this process in the past.

At the same time, acceptance of these resignations by the newly appointed speaker would be crucial for the BJP. If these resignations are not accepted, these MLAs would continue to be part of the coalition, which change the number game. So, acceptance of these resignations by the speaker will one of the first point on the agenda.

Can They be Disqualified?

The Supreme Court's 17 July interim order on rebel MLAs was vague on whether the whips issued by the Congress and JD(S) will applicable on them. Both parties have filed petitions in the Supreme Court seeking clarification on the order and during point of order raised by Former CM Siddaramaiah, speaker Ramesh Kumar had said the whip will be applicable.

The Congress and the JD(S) have filed petitions to speaker Ramesh Kumar seeking disqualification of these rebel MLAs citing their absence from the assembly and ‘anti-party activities’ as grounds. This matter is pending before the Speaker.

There are two possible scenarios here:

"First, Ramesh Kumar could approve the disqualifications before stepping down from the speaker’s post." "Second, the speaker appointed by the BJP could sit on these cases. In both cases, the likely outcome would be a court case filed by the coalition partners or the rebel MLAs."What Next for Resigned MLAs?

Under Article 164 (1B) of the Constitution, a member who has been disqualified can’t be made a minister till the expiry of his/her term, till s/he is re-elected. Since ministerial posts are allegedly the reward for defection offered by the BJP, the coalition has been pushing for disqualification to deny them this reward.

The Congress party has categorically denied that these MLAs will not be taken back to the party.

In both cases – disqualification and acceptance of resignations – these rebel MLAs will have to go for a by-election and get re-elected. According sources, the BJP has offered tickets to the 15 rebel MLAs during the by-election.

The Other Missing MLAs

Apart from these 15 rebel MLAs, there were two intendents, two Congress MLAs who were hospitalised and one BSP MLA, who were absent during the trust vote.

The BSP has already issued to statement that they have dismissed their MLA N Mahesh from the party for going against the party’s orders.

The future of the two hospitalised MLAs still remains unclear. The Congress had accused that Srimanth Patil, who has been hospitalised in Mumbai, had joined hands with the BJP. However, his name doesn’t figure in the list of the 15 rebels against whom the party had demanded disqualification. It is unclear whether Patil will be submitting his resignation to join the BJP camp.

The Congress party sources said the B Nagendra, other hospitalised MLA, is still part of their party.

The anti-defection law doesn’t apply to the independents, but one of independents R Shankar was associated with the political party KPJP and during the term of the coalition government, this party had merged with the Congress. The Congress is now pushing for anti-defection law against him citing this merger.

While these complications remain, Yeddyurappa will approach the governor, in the presence of a delegation from his party’s central leadership. According to sources, he is expected to swear in on Thursday, 25 July following which he will seek a trust vote to form the government.

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