Ashwatha quits Assembly to escape anti-defection law

Last Updated 15 October 2010, 19:10 IST

Ashwatha submitted his resignation to Speaker K G Bopaiah. By doing so, he avoided getting disqualified under the anti-defection law for violating the party whip. The BJP had resorted to “operation lotus” by which they induced MLAs of other parties to quit the Assembly and contest elections on its ticket.

The Speaker could have taken action if the JD-S had petitioned him seeking Ashwatha’s disqualification. The BJP strategically avoided the JD-S getting him back to its fold. There is speculation that Ashwatha may make  it to the State Cabinet. He has cited personal reasons for resigning from the post, official sources said.

It has to be seen whether the BJP will field Ashwatha as its candidate for the byelection to the Channapattana seat or make him an MLC. Interestingly, the BJP had poached C P Yogeshwar from the Congress and fielded him as its candidate in the Channapattana by-election in 2009. He had lost the battle to Ashwatha. Channappattana falls under the strong bastion of JD-S leader H D Kumaraswamy.  Sources said Ashwatha is the first victim of the second round of the “operation lotus” of the ruling party. Soon after winning the second trust vote on Thursday, Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa indicated that the party would resort to the operation to ensure stability.

BJP State President K S Eshwarappa said in Shimoga that the party would do anything to ensure stability to the government. “There is confusion in the Congress. So many legislators are planning to quit. What’s wrong if they come to our party,” he asked.
It is said Ashwatha and Varthur Prakash, a lone independent who supported the government, are likely to be inducted into the cabinet in a week.  The JD-S has decided to petition the Speaker against Ashwatha after the High Court judgment on the disqualification of rebel MLAs.

For, it still had hopes that Ashwatha may come back to the party fold. The party had thought that the composition of the Assembly may change if the membership of five Independent rebels is restored and that Ashwatha’s vote may prove crucial in that situation.

The miffed JD-S, on Friday, charged the government with misusing the Speaker’s office for the “operation lotus.” Party floor leader H D Revanna pointed out that the Speaker’s office was open till Thursday night.

“The office is located in the Vidhana Soudha and is usually closed by 5 pm. However, Ashwatha submitted his resignation late in the night. This leads to suspicion that the BJP is misusing the office of the Speaker,” he said.

He alleged that Ashwatha’s case proves that the BJP is indulging in horse trading. He said the governor should once again intervene and seek the dismissal of the state government. He wanted the government to  order a probe by a HC judge into the issue. The Speaker said he received the resignation of Ashwatha at 9 pm on Thursday. “He submitted it to me in person. It was 9 pm. I have records for the same. Till today, I have not received any petition by the JD-S seeking the disqualification of Ashwatha.”

When his attention was drawn to the allegation that he had kept his office open late in the evening to help the BJP, the Speaker retorted: “My office sometime works till 11 pm or 12 midnight when the Assembly takes up discussions. My office is allowed to work 24/7.”

Ashwatha was, however, not available for comments. In a purported telephonic conversation with a JD-S leader, the audio record of which was aired by a private TV news channel, Ashwatha said the ruling party had assured him of making him a minister if he abstained from voting in the confidence motion. He also criticised the JD-S for showing disrespect to him. Security has been provided to his house in Bangalore.

(Published 15 October 2010, 10:57 IST)

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