Politics
The Congress-JD(S) coalition seems to be buying more time by seeking clarification from the Supreme Court.
PTI photo

As the clock struck 11 on Thursday morning, and Karnataka legislators walked into the Assembly, the coalition’s game-plan was clear – to delay the trust vote for a few more days. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy moved the motion of confidence in the House, and it was accepted by the Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar. As CM Kumaraswamy raised the issue of Wednesday’s Supreme Court order, Congress Legislature Party Leader Siddaramaiah raised a point of order contending that his Constitutional rights under the Tenth Schedule had been curtailed by the apex court verdict. 

“SC order has discussed about my rights as CLP leader to issue whip but I was not a respondent to present my concerns. As the outcome of anti-defection law has its implications on no-confidence motion, I would like to request to postpone the motion until we get clarification from SC,” said Siddaramaiah. He also told the Speaker that he would petition the court seeking a clarification on the same. 

The move was an attempt to buy more time for the coalition which does not have the numbers presently to pass the confidence motion. According to sources, the Congress and JD(S) are looking at different options.

1) Work out a deal acceptable to Ramalinga Reddy and promise him a major role in the government. In turn, Ramalinga Reddy will bring a few rebel MLAs back to the fold. 

2) Ask two or three BJP MLAs to abstain – though this is a tough scenario. 

3) With the threat of disqualification looming large, hope that a few rebel MLAs come back. The Congress has been telling rebel MLAs that even if BS Yeddyurappa is able to form the government now, he may not be the Chief Minister for a long time. The rebel MLAs have been 'warned' that once the BJP chooses another CM, there is no guarantee that these rebels would remain ministers.

What happened in the Assembly

After Siddaramaiah made his point, the opposition created a ruckus and accused the ruling coalition of delaying the trust vote. BJP MLA Madhu Swamy and Leader of the Opposition BS Yeddyurappa stated that raising a point of order was contradictory to the Assembly’s order of the day. 

“There is no situation where a Point of Order needs to be raised. Siddaramaiah and the Congress party know that this is not what needs to be discussed. What Siddaramaiah speaks of is privilege, but does not fall under the circumstances where a point of order can be raised,” said BJP MLA Madhu Swamy. 

However, Speaker Ramesh Kumar shut him down by stating that a Point of Order can be raised if there is a violation of any rule or Article of the Constitution. “The point of order that the CLP leader is raising is about the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. He is saying that the Constitutional rights are being curtailed and hence the point of order can be raised,” Speaker Ramesh Kumar added.

A commotion ensued in the Assembly with legislators from both the ruling coalition and the opposition hurling accusations at each other. Yeddyurappa then claimed that the Supreme Court has asked the coalition not to issue a whip. However, Water Resources Minister DK Shivakumar yelled at Yeddyurappa, “You are misguiding the nation, you are misguiding the court and you are misguiding the political parties.” 

Intervening in the argument, the Speaker said that the issue needs to be discussed because of its ambiguous nature. “I am a respondent in the Supreme Court petition. The CLP leader is not. The tenth Schedule gives political parties the right to issue a whip. This Schedule has not been struck down nor has it been amended. The Supreme Court order is saying that it is up to the legislators if they want to come to the session or not. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know to whom this order applies. I am worried. How should I function?” the Speaker asked. He also reserved his right to pass an order on the CLP leader’s request to hold the trust vote proceedings.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday passed an interim order giving freedom to the 15 rebel MLAs to not attend the Assembly proceedings including the trust vote. This even as it allowed the Speaker to decide on their resignations, without setting a deadline. Several people had questioned whether the top court’s order undermined the anti-defection law – the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution. With the dissident MLAs not bound by the whip, they would not face disqualification.