‘Half lawyer’ Siddaramaiah saves day for ‘dosti’ govt

Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah speaks to Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in Legislative Assembly on Thursday. Chief Whip of the government Ganesh Hukkeri looks on. DH photo

“I was a half lawyer and a half politician once. Though I did not make it big as a lawyer, I did as a politician due to people’s blessings,” former chief minister Siddaramaiah said in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, while making out a case that his rights as the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader have been curtailed by the Supreme Court order, which allowed 15 rebel MLAs to abstain from the ongoing session.

But on the D-Day, when Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy moved the vote of confidence, it was the legal acumen of “half lawyer” Siddaramaiah and not his political experience that provided a breather for the rebellion-hit Congress and its coalition partner JD(S), who are tying to save the rickety government.

As Kumaraswamy touched upon the issue of disqualification and the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, commonly known as the anti-defection law, Siddaramaiah intervened and raised a “point of order,” which at once changed the very direction of the day’s proceedings.

On a “point of order,” Siddaramaiah referred to the Supreme Court’s order and said that as the CLP leader, his rights - that of issuing whip to the MLAs of his party - had been curtailed with the top court stating: “We also make it clear that until further orders, the 15 Members of the Assembly, ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session of the House and an option should be given to them that they can take part in the said proceedings or to opt to remain out of the same.”

Reading out the order, he emphatically stated that the CLP leader has not been made a respondent in the writ
petition though the matter pertains to members of the CLP.

As Siddaramaiah raised this legal issue, the focus of the Assembly’s discussion shifted from the vote of confidence to the “point of order.” The Opposition BJP’s hopes of an early floor test were dashed as the discussion on the “point of order” dragged on for the entire pre-lunch session with senior members from Opposition and Treasury benches - J C Madhuswamy, S Suresh Kumar, Jagadish Shettar, Basavaraj Bommai, H K Patil and Krishna Byre Gowda - coming out with their views.

Around 1.45 pm, Siddaramaiah made it amply clear what his prayer was: “Put the vote of confidence on hold till I get clarity from the Supreme Court on its order and infringement of my rights as CLP leader”. At this point, Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar adjourned the House to 3 pm, stating that he needs to consult Advocate General in view of Siddaramaiah’s plea.

If not for Siddaramaiah’s “point of order,” the day would have obviously ended with the defeat of the confidence motion, had there been a voting, as 18 Congress/JD(S) MLAs were not the present in the House.

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