Untenable action

The volatility and fickle mindedness of a handful of BJP legislators who have put the B S Yeddyurappa government on tenterhooks for months now, is only matched by governor H R Bhardwaj, who seems to operate on a one-point agenda of seeing the back of a democratically elected chief minister.

The Supreme Court’s decision to restore the membership of 16 Karnataka MLAs — 11 belonging to the BJP and five independents — who were disqualified by the Speaker under the Anti Defection Act last October, has triggered a fresh round of political crisis in the state. There was no denying that the BJP MLAs invited disqualification for defying the party, but the court held the view that the Speaker had acted in a ‘hasty’ manner and had not given the members a fair opportunity to defend themselves.

Whatever the merits of the court’s ruling, all that the governor could have done under the Constitution was to ask Yeddyurappa to once again take a confidence vote on the floor of the Assembly, in view of the prevailing uncertainties.

The rebel MLAs have not distinguished themselves by changing their stance once too often, but they clearly — at the behest of the ruling party — outsmarted the governor by writing a letter to the Raj Bhavan pledging their support to the government led by Yeddyurappa and withdrawing their October 2010 letter expressing lack of confidence in the chief minister. It is a completely bizarre situation, but there is no constitutional bar on their action, especially after the Supreme Court declared that they continue to be BJP members.

Bhardwaj’s wholly undemocratic action in ignoring the rebel MLAs’ second letter and recommending to the Centre to dismiss the Yeddyurappa government and keep the state Assembly under ‘suspended animation,’ reeks of partisan politics at its worst. The ruling BJP in Karnataka is being accused of encouraging horse-trading on an unprecedented scale and dangling cabinet berths and money to stay in power, but the remedy lies in electoral reforms and constitutional changes.

Bhardwaj’s earlier letter in October 2010 recommending dismissal of the Yeddyurappa ministry had been ignored by the Centre and the chief minister had managed to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly.

If the UPA government decides to accept Bhardwaj’s advice this time, it will clearly be in violation of the Constitution and the UPA will have to pay a price for it. Instead, the UPA government should on priority work towards a constitutional reform that will restore the dignity of the legislative functioning and respect for the people’s mandate.

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