Karnataka: High Drama But No Trust Vote, BJP MLAs to Sit in Overnight Dharna

Though the Congress and JD(S) coalition government looked finally poised to meet its fate with a no confidence motion having been moved in the Karnataka assembly on Thursday, no trust vote eventually took place.

New Delhi: The unexplained disappearance of a Congress MLA, a 45-minute-long speech by the party’s legislative body head and purported lack of clarity over Wednesday’s Supreme Court order for rebel MLAs became prime bones of contention as the coalition government in Karnataka managed to avoid the trust vote on Thursday.

It was late afternoon when governor Vajubhai Vala ordered the vote to be completed by the end of the day, but by evening the assembly was adjourned, leaving a fuming set of Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs to announce an “overnight dharna” at the house, in protest.

Meanwhile, the governor has written to chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, asking his government to prove majority at 1.30 pm on Friday. There is yet no clarity on whether the governor’s direction on matters relating to the assembly could be considered an order to be followed.

The day’s proceedings began with H.D. Revanna, who is Kumaraswamy’s brother, entering the Vidhan Soudha barefoot. Revanna is known to be superstitious and his beliefs could well have yielded results had the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government gone into a trust vote at all.

When Kumaraswamy moved his simple one-line confidence motion in the assembly on the Thursday, it looked like the fortnight-long political turmoil in the state was finally headed for a climax. But for now, the debacle looks to survive another day. “The entire nation is watching the developments unfolding in Karnataka,” Kumaraswamy had said.

Also read: As Trust Vote Nears, Karnataka Offers Lesson in Subversion of Democracy

Immediately after the chief minister moved the motion, BJP’s Karnataka chief B.S. Yeddyurappa stood up and insisted that the trust vote process be completed within the day.

“The leader of opposition seems to be in a hurry,” Kumaraswamy said wryly.

Not only was there eventually no trust vote, but high drama at the assembly ended in a delegation of the embittered BJP requesting governor Vala to direct speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar to continue the debate on the vote of confidence. The BJP is apprehensive that the precariously placed government might try to prolong the duration between the movement of the motion and the actual casting of votes to buy time and shore up strength.

“When the confidence motion was moved, Siddaramaiah, Krishna Byre Gowda and H.K. Patil all moved points of orders,” said BJP leader Jagadish Shettar.

Debacle on SC order

Indeed, Congress’s Siddaramaiah, who had notified reporters of the date and time of the trust motion in the assembly earlier in the week, spoke at length after standing up to present a point of order.

Most significantly, he sought “a clarification” on the Supreme Court’s order of Wednesday which gives the rebel MLAs the freedom to refrain from attending assembly during the trust vote – a freedom they exercised on Thursday.

The order, significantly, kept them out of the ambit of the party’s whip, issuing which is Siddaramaiah’s prerogative as the Congress Legislative Party leader in Karnataka.

The former chief minister, predictably, demanded for more time to arrive at a point of clarity over whether the anti-defection law would apply to the rebel MLAs who are no longer obligated to follow the whip.

The case of the missing MLA

Adding to the worries of the ruling coalition, Congress lawmaker Shreemant Patil remained absent from the assembly on Thursday. It emerged that Patil was ill and had been admitted to a Mumbai hospital. Mumbai, of course, is where 12 of the rebel MLAs have remained holed up for the better part of the last two weeks.

Patil’s absence took the total number of MLAs absent from the House to 20. The MLAs still with the coalition were reluctant to let the matter of his disappearance slip by and led by D.K. Shivakumar, the Congress’s steadfast foot soldier in its operation to reclaim MLAs, displayed blown up photographs of Patil lying down.

Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao asked why, when there was a hospital “right next to the resort” where coalition MLAs are staying, it was necessary to fly Patil to Chennai and then to Mumbai?

ANI has tweeted what appears to be photographic evidence of Patil’s presence at Chennai airport on Wednesday night, with BJP MLA Laxman Savadi.

Maintaining that Patil was not actually ill, the coalition’s MLAs alleged he had been abducted by the BJP, leading to visible uproar in the house.

At this juncture, speaker Ramesh Kumar informed the house that the document with which Patil had informed him that he would not be able to attend the session because of his illness had neither “a date nor a letterhead.” He then directed the state’s home minister M.B. Patil to contact the sick MLA’s family members.

“Give a detailed report to me by tomorrow, it does not look natural. If the home minister can’t ensure protection, I will talk to the DGP,” Ramesh Kumar said.

BJP ‘confident’

Meanwhile, the state’s BJP wing has been confident that the Kumaraswamy government is poised for a loss.

Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Mahesh, whose support the ruling coalition was counting on, also did not turn up in the House, amid reports that he was keeping away as he has not received any directions from the party leader Mayawati on the stand to be taken on the trust vote.

Meanwhile, senior Congress legislator Ramalinga Reddy said he stick to the Congress and support the government during the trust vote.

“I don’t know what their party (coalition partners Congress and JD-S) is going to do but we are 105 in number. They will be less than 100. Hundred per cent we are confident that the confidence motion will be defeated,” Yeddyurappa said.

As many as 16 MLAs, 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S), resigned in close succession, along with independent MLAs R. Shankar and H. Nagesh, triggering a chain of events leading to the trust vote.

The ruling coalition’s strength in the House is 117. Congress has 78 MLAs, JD(S) has 37, BSP has one and there is one more nominated MLA, besides the speaker.

With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 105 MLAs in the 224-member house.

(With PTI inputs)

This is a developing story and will be updated according to the developments in Karnataka.