Karnataka Assembly adjourned till Monday, trust vote drama drags on

Karnataka Assembly adjourned till Monday, trust vote drama drags on
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy discusses with his cabinet colleagues after Assembly was adjourned for lunch at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, Friday. Photo: PTI
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Bengaluru: In a face-off with Governor Vajubhai Vala, the JD(S)-Congress government in Karnataka defied the two deadlines set by him to demonstrate its majority in the Assembly Friday itself, worsening the political logjam.

The assembly was adjourned till Monday after the governor's 1:30pm deadline and the second one to conclude the confidence motion process by Friday itself was ignored, prolonging the climax to the ceaseless power struggle.

As the first deadline neared, the ruling coalition vociferously questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction, with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature.

The second missive by the governor was dismissed as a "love letter" by Kumaraswamy who criticised Vala for talking about horse-trading now "when it had been happening" for the last several days.

Before adjourning the House for the day, Speaker Ramesh Kumar said the motion of confidence would reach finality on Monday and it would not be prolonged further under any circumstances, to which the government agreed.

As the crisis sparked by the resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling coalition a fortnight ago deepened, Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and Karnataka's Congress unit moved the Supreme Court, contending its July 17 order was coming in the way of the party issuing whip to its legislators in the ongoing trust vote proceedings.

The court had held that the MLAs cannot be compelled to participate in the Assembly proceedings.

Karnataka Assembly adjourned till Monday, trust vote drama drags on
Karnataka Assembly Speaker KRRamesh Kumar speaks during an Assembly session at Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru, Friday. Photo: PTI

Kumaraswamy told the apex court that the governor cannot dictate the House on the manner in which debate of Confidence motion has to take place while the Congress contended a political party has a constitutional right to issue whip and the court cannot restrict it.

"No such direction on trust vote could have been issued by the governor when confidence motion was already initiated," the chief minister said.

Governor Vajubhai Vala fixed a second deadline asking the chief minister to complete the floor test on Friday itself, shortly after the 1:30pm deadline set on Thursday night for the JD(S) leader to prove his majority ended without the assembly taking up voting on the motion of confidence to decide the fate of his shaky government.

Pointing out that the debates and discussions in the assembly appeared to be merely to delay the floor test, Vala in his letter to the chief minister referred to wild allegations about horse-trading and said it was Constitutionally imperative the floor test be completed without any delay and Friday itself.

Kumaraswamy responding saying he has received a "second love letter" and that he was hurt by it.

"I have received a second love letter," said Kumaraswamy in the assembly on the governor's second missive to him in two days.

The ruling coalition appeared to be in no hurry to face the trust vote with Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah saying the debate may go on till Monday after which the voting would take place since many MLAs have given their names to participate in the debate.

As the deadline neared, it vociferously questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature.

Kumaraswamy said he would not criticise the governor and requested Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar to decide whether the governor can set a deadline.

Allegations of bribery flew thick and fast as the debate progressed with the ruling coalition ministers and members targeting the BJP for its alleged toppling game.

"Legislators were offered Rs 40-50 crore to lure them; whose money is it?" asked Kumaraswamy hitting out at the BJP even as the opposition members remained unruffled apparently to ensure there was no disorder that would disturb voting.

JD(S) MLA Srinivas Gowda alleged he was offered Rs 5 crore bribe by BJP to defect to bring down the government.

Minister Sa Ra Mahesh alleged Vishwanath (JD-S former state president) had told him that he needs money as he has election-related loan of Rs 28 crore.

Krishna Byre Gowda alleged hundreds of crores of were being pumped in to bring down the government.

In his speech, Kumaraswamy accused BJP of resorting to ways to circumvent the anti-defection law.

He asked BJP why it is in a hurry to end the trust vote debate in one day if it was sure of its numbers.

"Why is the BJP in a hurry, if they have the numbers... why the hurry to end the debate in one day.... I know it is not easy to get your MLAs," Kumaraswamy said looking towards BJP leaderr B S Yeddyurappa.

As the clock in the assembly struck 1:30pm, the BJP insisted on a division on the confidence motion moved by Kumaraswamy Thursday in accordance with the letter by the governor sent to him.

The House was then adjourned till 3pm amid ruckus with both BJP and Congress members locked in heated exchanges over the Governor's role.

Vala on Thursday set the 1:30pm deadline for proving the majority within hours after the voting on the confidence motion could not take place with the Speaker adjourning the day's proceedings in the assembly.

The Governor in his letter to the Chief Minister had observed resignation of 15 MLAs of the ruling JD(S)-Congress and withdrawal of support by two independents "prima facie" indicated Kumaraswamy had lost confidence of the House.

After the assembly resumed its sitting Friday morning and as the deadline fast approached, Yeddyurappa stood up and pressed for division on the confidence motion and his party insisted that Kumaraswamy should make it clear whether he would obey the governor's directive or not.

The Speaker said there was a process to be followed and the motion would be put to vote, if pressed for, according to rules after discussion.

He also reminded BJP members that until the discussion, they cannot press for division.

Amid pandemonium, Congress members accused the BJP of misusing the governor's office to conspire against the government and shouted slogans, "Go back governor."

The House reassembled after an overnight drama that saw BJP members camping in the assembly to protest against the House not taking up the voting.

Making it clear that there was no scope for any other discussion except the trust vote, the speaker also dismissed suggestions that he was trying to delay the vote on the confidence motion.

As many as 16 MLAs -- 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) -- had resigned, while independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh have withdrawn their support to the coalition government, putting the government on the edge.

One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted, saying he would support the government.

The ruling front's strength is 117-- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the Speaker.

With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and Speaker.

If the resignations of 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and 3 from JD(S)) are accepted or if they stay away, the ruling coalition's tally will plummet to 101, (excluding the Speaker) reducing the government to a minority.

(With inputs from PTI & IANS)

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