Guv, Speaker face off

Guv, Speaker face off

Bhardwaj’s directive implied the Speaker refrained from disqualifying or suspending any member on the day of the trust vote, a step the Governor took after the Speaker planned to disqualify Opposition legislators under the anti-defection law. Bopaiah has replied to Bhardwaj’s directive, in the form of a letter, bluntly saying that the Governor could not intervene in his functions.

The Governor’s message reached Bopaiah a couple of hours before he began hearing petitions from the BJP, seeking the disqualification of 16 rebels. The Speaker reserved his ruling after hearing the petitions.

The Legislative Assembly will meet on Monday at 11 am with just one agenda––whether the House reposed confidence in the government of B S Yeddyurappa. The voting is by headcount.

Unpredictable
With some legislators switching loyalties, some going into hiding without disclosing their allegiance and the Governor warning that that he will take the final call depending on how the Speaker conducted the proceedings, the result of the trust vote has become unpredictable.

In a House of 224 (excluding the Speaker), the chief minister’s motion must be backed by a majority of votes for his government to survive. After the rebellion, while the BJP’s effective strength has been reduced to 105 (including nominated MLAs), the combined Opposition legislators number 118 (Congress: 73, JD(S): 27, Independents: 6 and BJP rebels: 12).

If the Speaker went ahead and disqualified 16 rebels, it would ensure a victory for the ruling party. Since M P Renukacharya and Raju Gowda have returned to the party fold, the BJP has withdrawn petition related to them. But the very survival of the government hinges on disqualification of the rebels and probable cross voting by Opposition members.
The BJP, which petitioned for the disqualification of the rebels, cried foul over the Governor’s direction. Furious BJP leaders accused the Governor of interfering in the Speaker’s functioning and demanded his recall by the President.

The Governor said: “There should be a fair and free floor test. Any change in the character/configuration of the House in the run up to the vote of confidence motion is bound to vitiate the proceedings of the House. Any result obtained by such vitiated proceedings will not be acceptable.”

In a stinker of a reply to the Governor, the Speaker hit back asking him to maintain impartiality. “I am dismayed at the tone and content of the letter received from you which is tantamount to serious interferences with discharge of my function as Speaker...I also very humbly request you (Governor) to maintain impartiality in the dispute between the rival political parties and uphold the high traditions of the office of the Governor,” Bopaiah’s letter said.

All 18 rebel MLAs led by JD(S) state president H D Kumaraswamy put up a show of unity at a five star hotel in Chennai. The rebels have been housed safely at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Bangalore. The Congress MLAs too arrived in Bangalore from Pune. Sources said BJP leaders were busy working out ways and means to ensure cross voting by Opposition members. The BJP was said to be in touch with at least 10 Congress and JD(S) MLAs. They said that Yeddyurappa will continue to be chief minister as he is expected to garner between 105 and 108 votes. But a confident Kumaraswamy said   it was time for the BJP government to pack off.
 The JD (S) and Congress legislators in a joint petition to the Legislative Assembly secretary  stated that they have no confidence in Speaker K G Boppiah and, hence, he should be replaced.

Speaker has the power: Sorabjee
Former Solicitor General Soli Sorabjee has said the Speaker is a constitutional authority and he can exercise the judicial function whether to suspend the MLAs or to disqualify them. Talking to a television channel, Sorabjee added that if there is anything in the letter that suggests what he should do or should not, or whether his decision is acceptable or not, that would amount to interference with the exercise of judicial function.

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