SC order sets stage for trust motion showdown

Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy comes out of the Sringeri Shankar Mutt after offering prayers with his family in Bengaluru on Wednesday. DH Photo/Krishnakumar P S

Unwilling to go down without a fight, the Congress-JD(S) coalition is firm on issuing a whip to its legislators, mandating them to attend Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s confidence motion proceedings today, even as the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave rebel MLAs an option to abstain. 

If the 15 rebels abstain during the floor test, it will be the end of the road for the Kumaraswamy-led coalition. 

A three-judge bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the rebels “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”.

The rebels, lodged in Mumbai, said there was no question of going to the Assembly.

“We stand by our decision,” Congress’ Hirekerur MLA B C Patil said in a video where he is seen with 11 other rebels. 

Also, in the interim order, the Apex Court declined to put a fetter on the “discretion” of Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar in deciding resignations of 15 rebel MLAs. Kumar should be “left free to decide”, the Supreme Court said in a balancing act.

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The Congress, while hailing the Supreme Court for giving the Speaker a free hand to decide on the resignation of the rebel MLAs, took exception to allowing the MLAs to stay away from the Assembly session.

The coalition argues that defying the whip will become a stronger ground for disqualification, which will mean the rebels cannot hold ministerial positions till they are re-elected. 

A Congress delegation that met the Speaker after the Supreme Court pronounced its order, discussed ways to counter the rebels ahead of the trust motion. “The SC has said attending or not is left to the MLAs, but Assembly rules state that such MLAs have to seek permission. We asked the Speaker if this relaxation was granted. He said they have to seek permission,” RDPR Minister Krishna Byre Gowda said.

Kumaraswamy, who is also the JD(S) Legislature Party leader, has issued a whip to all his MLAs  as well as individual whips to the three rebels camping in Mumbai -
H Vishwanath, K Gopalaiah and K C Narayan Gowda.

“As per Clause 2.1(B) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, as a political party we have the right to issue a whip. The resignations are yet to be accepted and disqualification proceedings against them are pending. They are still our MLAs. We will issue a whip. The Supreme Court hasn’t said we can’t issue a whip, or what will happen if the whip is defied,” KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao explained.

But BJP state president B S Yeddyurappa asserted the whip will not apply to the rebel MLAs. “This is a very good verdict. The whip won’t apply to the 15 MLAs, which means Kumaraswamy has lost his mandate,” he said, demanding the CM’s resignation.

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