Karnataka: Speaker firm, crisis drags on

Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar arrives at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Thursday. PTI photo

Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Thursday strongly defended the “delay” in examining the resignation of rebel MLAs, which the Opposition BJP has termed as a tactic, despite the Supreme Court asking him to decide before the end of the day. 

With this, the political crisis is set to drag on, keeping Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on the edge of his seat. 

The apex court, earlier in the day, allowed 10 rebel MLAs of the Congress-JD(S) coalition to submit their resignation to the Speaker by 6 pm. 

The Speaker “shall take a decision forthwith and, in any case, in the course of the remaining part of the day” a bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose stated. 

Karnataka crisis LIVE | Speaker says he needs time to examine to see if the resignations are genuine

The MLAs, in dramatic fashion, flew to Bengaluru from Mumbai and arrived at Vidhana Soudha under police cover, making it to the Speaker’s chamber at 6.05 pm. They tendered their resignation again, this time in the proper format. 

“The Supreme Court has used the word ‘forthwith’ while asking me to take a decision. I need clarity on what that word means,” Kumar told reporters.

“As per Article 190 of the Constitution, I must be convinced about the resignations. Given the current political situation, are these resignations genuine and voluntary? I leave it to the public to decide, but my responsibility is to decide only after an inquiry,” he said. “Whatever happened today has been video-graphed, which will be sent to the SC registrar-general along with what the Constitution says.”

Kumar has been accused of delaying the process to help the ruling coalition buy more time to manage the crisis. “I’m delaying because I love this land. I’m not acting in haste because I have to convince myself,” he said, fuming at the rebel MLAs for moving court. “Do elected members need SC permission to meet me? The court should have thought about this. Had anyone kept the MLAs in confinement? But they go to Mumbai, then Delhi and then I’m blamed for delaying.”

He also hit out at the rebels for rushing to the Governor on July 6. “First of all, I wasn’t in office because they came uninformed. They went to the Governor also. Isn’t this misuse of a noble Constitutional functionary? Should we make use of his secretariat for such silly reasons?”

So far, 16 MLAs have tendered their resignation. Plus, two Independents have withdrawn support. The BJP has demanded Kumaraswamy’s resignation on the grounds that his government was reduced to a minority. 

Meanwhile, the Congress-JD(S) coalition pressed for the disqualification of 15 rebels as a last resort to make them change their mind. The government has also issued a whip mandating the presence of all coalition legislators for the legislature session, anticipating a trust vote Kumaraswamy may have to take. 
The whip requires MLAs to vote in favour of the government, and violation will lead to disqualification.

Session from today

The monsoon session of the state legislature will begin on Friday amid political upheavals. The legislature has to approve the full Budget for the current financial year during the session which is scheduled to be held till July 26.

The H D Kumaraswamy government has become a minority following the resignation of 16 Congress and JD(S) MLAs. Besides, two Independent MLAs have pulled back their support to it. The Opposition BJP has decided to stage a dharna in both Houses of the legislature against the government.

Rebels back to Mumbai

All rebel MLAs left for Mumbai on Thursday evening after submitting their resignation letters to the Speaker. They are unlikely to attend the legislature session commencing from Friday despite the Congress and the JD(S) issuing the whip.

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