Karnataka Crisis: Rebel MLAs meet Speaker, submit fresh resignations

SC asks Karnataka Assembly Speaker to decide on rebel MLAs resignation today
Karnataka Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar arrives at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru on Thursday. PTI

Bengaluru/Mumbai: Notwithstanding a Supreme Court order, Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Thursday ruled out any immediate decision on the resignation of rebel MLAs in the crisis-hit ruling JD(S)-Congress coalition, saying he cannot be expected to work at "lightning speed".

As suspense mounted on the Speaker's course of action after 10 dissident MLAs appeared before him following the court order and submitted their resignations afresh for acceptance, Kumar said the letters were in the "right format" but he will have to examine whether they are "voluntary and genuine."

As per the Karnataka Legislature Rules, intended resignation should be "in perfect format," he told reporters after meeting the disgruntled legislators.

"Unfortunately, eight of the 13 letters that reached my office (last week) were not in the format," he said.

Kumar also insisted that he was neither responsible for the current political situation nor its outcome.

"MLAs have submitted resignation in right format now.. I will have to examine whether resignations are voluntary and genuine," he added.

Kumar said he had earlier informed the legislators that if they are so intent to resign, they should resubmit their resignations in the prescribed form.

Rebel MLAs
Rebel MLAs Ramesh Jarkiholi, ST Somashekar arrive to meet the Speaker, at Vidhana Soudha on Thursday. PTI

The top court earlier asked the Speaker to decide "forthwith" on Thursday about the resignation of 10 rebel Congress-JD(S) coalition MLAs, allowing them to meet him at 6 pm.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said the decision taken by the Speaker has to be intimated on Friday when the court takes up the matter again.

Speaker moves Supreme Court

Earlier in the day, the Speaker moved the Supreme Court seeking vacation of its order directing him to decide on the resignations of 10 rebel MLAs on Thursday.

The Speaker contended that such a direction cannot be issued by the top court and sought an urgent hearing on his application.

The Speaker said his constitutional duties and Assembly rules mandated him to verify whether the original reason behind the resignations tendered by the MLAs and whether these were voluntary or coerced.

Therefore, to determine this, an inquiry cannot be completed within the stipulated time-frame set by the top court in its order, he argued.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi refused urgent hearing on the matter but allowed the Speaker's application to be filed and indicated that the matter will be taken up for hearing along with the petition of 10 rebel MLAs.

Speaker's counsel senior advocate A M Singhvi and Devadatt Kamat contended before the court that the Speaker was constitutionally bound to first take up the disqualification proceedings first.

The bench led by the Chief Justice replied it had already passed the order in the morning. "It is for the Speaker to decide on the nature of course of action... We will hear you tomorrow."

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed ten rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs from Karnataka to meet the Assembly speaker at 6pm and convey the decision of their resignation to him. The court also directed the Karnataka DGP to provide protection to the MLAs from Bangalore airport to Assembly on their arrival from Mumbai.

MLAs back in Bengaluru

The ten rebel MLAs, who were camping in Mumbai, arrived in Bengaluru by two special flights, hours after the Supreme Court allowed them to meet the Assembly Speaker to convey their decision to resign.

DK Shivakumar returns empty handed as Kumaraswamy govt struggles to stay afloat
JD(S) MLAs leave a hotel in Bengaluru on Monday. Photo: PTI

Amid tight security, the MLAs boarded a luxury bus from the HAL airport and proceeded towards the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat.

While 10 of them arrived from Mumbai, one disgruntled Congress MLA Munirathna joined them at the Vidhana Soudha and went inside the Speakers chamber along with them.

Of the 16 MLAs who had resigned, 11 reached the speaker K R Ramesh Kumars office to tender their resignation afresh.

Besides Munirathna, the other MLAs who entered Speakers office were Byrathi Basavaraj, Ramesh Jarkiholi, S T Somashekhar, B C Patil, K Gopalaiah, Shivaram Hebbar, Narayana Gowda, A H Vishwanath, Prathap Gouda Patil and Mahesh Kumathalli.

Police had made tight security arrangements at the Vidhana Soudha, and created a 'zero traffic corridor' to enable the MLAs reach the Speaker's office well on time.

The legislators boarded a special flight to the Karnataka capital at 2.50pm.

At the Mumbai airport, the legislators were glued to political developments in their home state on television as they completed formalities for their departure.

"The rebel MLAs can now appear before the Speaker in Karnataka. They flew to Bengaluru so that they can meet the speaker and put forth their statement," a source said.

The MLAs - including those of the Congress, the JD(S) and Independents - were staying at the Renaissance Hotel in Powai after resigning from the Karnataka Assembly and withdrawing support to the coalition government.

MLAs made things 'murky'

Ahead of his meeting with the disgruntled Congress and JD(S) MLAs, Karnataka Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar has said the legislators approaching the Supreme Court made things appear "murky."

The Congress and JD(S) MLAs, who had resigned from the Assembly are slated to meet the Speaker by 6pm, in accordance with the Apex court.

"I had not prevented them (disgruntled MLAs) from coming (to my office). I don't know why they moved the Supreme Court to meet me," Kumar told reporters outside the Vidhana Soudha here on Thursday.

"There was no need for them (MLAs who resigned) to approach the Court (for a direction) that I should meet them. They could have willingly come here. That itself shows the whole thing is murky," he said.

Kumar further said he had never declined to meet any legislator.

To a query whether he would decide on the resignations today (Thursday) itself, the Speaker said the top court has asked him to take a call on the matter but not what decision has to be taken.

SC asks Karnataka Assembly Speaker to decide on rebel MLAs resignation today
Karnataka Minister and congress DK Shivakumar and GT Devegowda with other Congress leaders and MLAs detained by Mumbai police on Wednesday. Photo: Vishnu V Nair

A day of high drama

On Wednesday, high drama was witnessed in the city as police detained Karnataka Congress minister D K Shivakumar who was on a mission to woo back a dozen rebels holed up in a luxury hotel here as the JD(S)-Congress government in the southern state is teetering on the verge of collapse.

Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar earlier declined to accept the resignations of the MLAs saying he had to first hear the legislators. He had also pointed out that of the 16 resignations of the MLAs, only five were in the proper format.

The developments surfaced well ahead of the Assembly session starting Friday.

A fresh set of resignation letters of eight rebel MLAs who are camping in Mumbai was sent to the Speaker of Karnataka Assembly on Wednesday, according to a BJP leader from Maharashtra.

"The earlier resignation letters had some technical errors hence they were rejected by the Karnataka Speaker. We have sent a fresh dispatch of resignation letters via Speed Post as well as emailed copies to the Speaker," the BJP leader said.

"Copies of these letters will also be delivered by hand to the Speaker. This time we are taking utmost precautions and leaving no chance to the opposition," the leader said.

Why should I resign, says Kumaraswamy

DK Shivakumar returns empty handed as Kumaraswamy govt struggles to stay afloat
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Thursday rejected demands for his resignation in the wake of 16 Congress-JD(S) MLAs quitting, which has pushed his 13-month old coalition government to the brink of collapse.

His response comes a day after the Karnataka unit of the BJP, led by its chief B S Yeddyurappa, staged a protest at the Vidhan Soudha, demanding the resignation of Kumaraswamy, who they claimed had lost majority in the House.

"Why should I resign? What is the necessity for me to resign now?," Kumaraswamy shot back to reporters here, amidst the speculation that he could put in his papers in the wake of the crisis.

He recalled that in 2009-10, 18 MLAs, including some ministers, had "opposed" the then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but he had not resigned.

The chief minister held discussions with senior Congress leaders on Thursday, after the coalition government headed by him suffered a fresh jolt with two more Congress legislators resigning on Wednesday, talking the tally of MLAs who have put in their papers to 16.

SC asks Karnataka Assembly Speaker to decide on rebel MLAs resignation today
BJP workers along with their leaders and Karnataka state president BS Yediyurappa (C) stage a demonstration at the Vidhana Soudha (seat of the state legislature) against the Congress-Janatha Dal (Secular) coalition government in Bangalore on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Prohibitory orders around Vidhana Soudha

Bengaluru Police Commissioner Alok Kumar has issued prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, restricting the gathering of more than five persons and any form of protests within the two-km area around the Vidhana Soudha.

The police commissioner issued the orders on Wednesday night, taking into account intelligence inputs.

The prohibitory orders came into effect on Thursday when Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is scheduled to chair a cabinet meeting in the backdrop of 16 MLAs, including Housing Minister M T B Nagaraj, resigning and two Independent legislators – R Shankar and H Nagesh – withdrawing support to the Congress-JD(S) coalition government on Wednesday.

Floor test on Friday?

A restive BJP is hoping Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala would direct the CM to take the floor test in the Assembly on Friday to prove if he has majority after 16 legislators of the ruling allies resigned, a party official said Thursday.

"We are hoping for the Governor to direct the Chief Minister to move a trust-vote in the Assembly on Friday when the monsoon session begins as his coalition government is reduced to minority after 13 Congress and 3 JD-S lawmakers resigned and 2 more withdrew support to him," BJP's G Madhusudan told IANS here.

The BJP, which has 105 lawmakers in the 225-member Assembly has decided to prevent the House proceedings if the Speaker does not ask Kumaraswamy to first conduct the floor test as the effective strength of the ruling allies is reduced to 101 from 118 and those MLAs who resigned and withdrew support will not be present in the House.

"As all the legislators and the two who withdrew support have given a copy of their resignation letters to the Governor, he (Vala) is entitled to suo moto ask Kumaraswamy to face the trial of strength as his government is reduced to minority," asserted Madhusudan.

The 10-day Monsoon Session of the state legislature has been convened to take up the Finance Bill to pass the state budget for this fiscal (2019-20), discuss the drought situation, deficit monsoon and the recent multi-crore IMA ponzi scheme, which duped thousands of investors across the state.

"Our party's legislators are meeting later in the day to chalk-out strategy to counter the speaker and the government if the trust-vote is not taken up first when the session begins at 11:00am on Friday," the official said.

Clarifying that the BJP would not move a no-confidence motion against the beleaguered government, Madhusudan said the onus was on the chief minister to prove he has majority with 18 of the ruling legislators absent in the assembly.

"Though the Speaker has not accepted the resignations so far, the absence of the 18 legislators in the Assembly who resigned, does not prevent him from conducting the floor test," the BJP spokesman claimed.

The Congress has also called for a meeting of its legislators to prepare for the session and face the floor test if conducted.

"Though all our ministers (21) have submitted their resignations to the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah to enable the Chief Minister to reconstitute the cabinet, they are attending the cabinet meeting being held at Vidhan Soudha later in the day," Congress spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS.

The game of numbers

The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition faces the threat of losing its majority in the Assembly if the resignations are accepted as its current tally is 116 in the 224 member House. Congress MLAs MTB Nagaraj and K Sudhakar submitted their resignations to Assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar at his chamber in Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat, on Wednesday.

Of the 16 MLAs who have resigned, 13 are from the Congress and three from the JD(S). The coalition's strength in the House is 116 (Congress 78, JD(S) 37 and BSP one), besides the speaker.

With the support of the two independents, who resigned from the ministry on Monday, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 224-member House, where the halfway mark is 113.

If the resignations of the 16 MLAs are accepted, the ruling coalition's tally will be reduced to 100.

(With inputs from PTI & IANS)

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