Karnataka's Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government, on the verge of losing its majority after 14 MLAs quit, seems to have won a breather as Speaker Ramesh Kumar decided that the resignations were not in order. None of the lawmakers had met him, Kumar told the Governor in a letter. While this buys the ruling coalition a little more time, more exits may be inevitable. A dozen Congress lawmakers skipped a meeting on Tuesday despite compulsory attendance. Three of them called in sick. The Speaker, who was not in office when 13 rebel Congress and JDS lawmakers submitted their resignations on Saturday, said he would act according to the constitution. "The MLAs have not given letters as per law, so they have to come again and give me. Out of 13 resignations, eight are not in order," he said.
The crisis in the HD Kumaraswamy-led government in Karnataka deepened further on Tuesday with one more Congress MLA resigning, taking to 17 the number of legislators of the ruling Congress-JD-S combine who have quit over the last few days.
Meanwhile, the 11 rebel Congress MLAs, who resigned from their Assembly seats three days back, on Tuesday skipped the party’s legislature meeting in Bengaluru, which was attended only by 60 of the 78 party MLAs.
The political crisis in Karnataka resonated in Parliament as well on Tuesday, with the Congress accusing the BJP of destabilizing its government in the southern state. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rejected the charge, saying the Congress was unable to handle its internal problems.
If the resignations of all the 12 MLAs of the Congress, three of the JD-S, one of regional party KPJP and an Independent are accepted by Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar, the ruling coalition’s number in the 225-member House will drop from 118 to 101, 12 short of the majority mark.
The Speaker on Tuesday asked all the MLAs who have resigned to meet him personally to clarify on their resignation letters, saying some of those were not in the proper format.
The Speaker’s directive came hours after suspended Congress legislator R. Roshan Baig resigned from the Shivajinagar Assembly seat, submitting his resignation letter to the Speaker in his office.
Later, the Speaker declined to accept the resignations of the 13 Congress-JD-S rebel legislators, as 8 were not in the prescribed format and 5 needed explanations to ensure they were in accordance with the law.
“I have summoned all the legislators of both the parties to meet me on July 12, July 15 and July 21, as their resignations are faulty and explanations are not in accordance with the law under section 202 of the Anti-Defection Act,” said Kumar.
With Baig quitting, the number of Congress lawmakers who have resigned from their respective Assembly seats has gone up to 12. Three JD-S MLAs also resigned.
Besides them, one legislator of KPJP and an Independent, have also quit as ministers and withdrawn their support to the Kumaraswamy government.
Baig, 67, an eight-time lawmaker from Shivajinagar, was suspended from the party on June 19 for his attack on the party’s state in-charge K.C. Venugopal, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and state unit president Dinesh Gundu Rao for the party’s rout in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress, which contested the Lok Sabha polls in a pre-poll alliance with its coalition partner JD-S, won only one of the 21 seats it contested. The JD-S also managed to win only one seat.
The opposition BJP swept the polls, bagging 25 of the 27 seats in the state.
Commenting the day after on the May 19 exit polls that projected Congress performing poorly in the general elections, Baig lashed out at Venugopal, Siddaramaiah and Rao.
“Venugopal is a buffoon. What does he know about the party in our state, as he is from Kerala? Due to Siddaramaiah’s arrogance, the party lost in the May 2018 Assembly elections and Rao’s immaturity is responsible for the dismal state of affairs currently,” Baig had told reporters here.
He has been sulking against the party leadership since last year for being denied a cabinet post, despite being the Muslim face of the party after the passing away of veteran party leader Jaffer Shariff in November.
Earlier, 10 of the Congress MLAs flew to Mumbai on July 6 after submitting their resignations to the secretary of the Speaker in his absence and meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala at the Raj Bhavan.
The Congress, which is making desperate attempts to save the government, had convened a meeting of the legislators on Tuesday in Bengaluru but none of the rebel MLAs turned up for it, despite being given notice on July 7 to be present, party spokesman Ravi Gowda said.
Of the party’s 78 legislators, Gowda said about 60 attended the meeting while five to six had informed CLP leader Siddaramaiah in advance of their inability to attend.
In Delhi, the Congress members created uproar in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, accusing the BJP of being behind the rebellion in the ruling coalition in Karnataka to topple it.
The Congress members disrupted the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, preventing it from functioning and forcing its adjournment for the day.
In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members, joined by the members of the DMK, NCP and National Conference, staged a walkout.
Prior to that, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the BJP was indulging in “poaching politics”.
“The Opposition has a major role in taking forward the country… We will raise the issue. It is the government’s prerogative to make the decision. We are doing our job. Poaching politics should be stopped,” Chowdhury said.
Suspended Karnataka Congress legislator R. Roshan Baig has resigned from the Shivajinagar Assembly seat in Bengaluru Central.
With Baig, the number of party lawmakers who have resigned from their respective Assembly seats has gone up to 12, including 11 rebels.
In the 225-member Assembly, including one nominated, the Congress has 78 members, excluding the Speaker.
If the Speaker accepts all the dozen resignations, the party’s strength in the Assembly will reduce to 66.
Baig was a minister in the previous two Congress governments (2013-18) and 1999-2004 and the erstwhile Janata Dal-United (JD-U) government in 1994-1999.
Of the 21 seats the Congress contested in a pre-poll alliance with its coalition ally Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), it won only one, while the JD-S too managed to win only one seat.
The opposition BJP, however, won 25 of the 27 seats in the southern state.
As the opposition raised slogans in the Lok Sabha that the BJP is trying to topple the JD-S-Congress Karnataka government, former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah sought disqualification of rebel MLAs for ‘anti-party’ activities.
In Parliament, the opposition staged a walkout in protest of the developments in the state as Siddaramaiah said here: “BJP has used money power to poach our MLAs.”
Speaking at a press conference, the Congress leader said the party will sit-in on a one-hour token dharna and then meet Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar and also carry out a cabinet reshuffle.
As the state politics continued to be in a turmoil for the last couple of days, with hectic parleys by the ruling alliance in intra and inter mode, BJP’s Shobha Karandlaje said only the Governor could take a call in case the crisis further worsens.
Speaker Ramesh Kumar has listed the matter while rebel MLAs skipped a crucial Congress Legislative Party meeting at the Vidhana Soudha earlier in the day.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was to stage protests across Karnataka during the day demanding Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy’s resignation as his coalition government lost majority following the resignation of 14 Congress-JD-S legislators and two Ministers, a party official said.
“Our leaders and cadres will hold demonstrations in all the district headquarters across the state between 11 a.m. and noon for Kumaraswamy’s resignation, as he has no moral right to continue after the MLAs of the ruling allies resigned and his government has been reduced to minority in the Assembly,” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman G. Madhusudana said.
Major opposition parties, including the Congress and the DMK, stormed out of the Lok Sabha over the political crisis in Karnataka where several Congress and JD-S MLAs have quit, putting the coalition government in a crisis.
The House was plunged into an uproar when a Congress request to raise the issue during Zero Hour was not allowed by Speaker Om Birla.
Congress and DMK MPs immediately trooped near the Speaker’s podium raising slogans like “we want justice” and “stop dictatorship”. Congress leaders, who persisted with their demand, first protested from their seats.
The Speaker pointed out that he had allowed the Congress on Monday to speak on the issue. “But don’t give out an impression outside Parliament that it is a place for sloganeering and showing placards.”
“Don’t make the House look like a municipal corporation hall,” Birla said.
The Speaker, who had earlier warned the members amid protests, urged them to take their seats, adding that he had been giving opportunities to members to speak out of turn.
Birla said the House belonged to all members and there should not be any sloganeering. “Debate with each other but there is a need to put an end to sloganeering and raising of placards if everyone agrees.”
The Congress has accused the BJP of destabilizing the Congress-JD-S coalition government in Karnataka by luring its MLAs to cross over to the BJP.
“The opposition has a major role in taking forward the country… We will raise the issue. It is the government’s prerogative to take the decision. We are doing our job. Poaching politics should be stopped,” Chowdhury said.
He also alleged that after Karnataka, the ruling party could next target the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.
The MP justified the Congress resorting to sloganeering by referring to the remarks of BJP leader Arun Jaitley that disruption was also a legitimate strategy of the opposition.
“We are fulfilling our role, they should fulfil theirs. Senior leader Arun Jaitley has said disruption is also a tactic, we have taken a lesson from him,” he said.
Chowdhury said “democracy was in danger” due to the actions of the BJP-led government and reiterated that “poaching politics should be stopped.”
Rejecting the BJP’s claims of non-interference in the Karnataka developments, he asked how vehicles and planes were ready for rebel legislators.
Amid Congress protests, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the members cannot give notice on a matter that had already been raised in the House.
He said the BJP does not have a hand in the Karnataka developments and the Congress was facing problems due to the resignation of Rahul Gandhi as the party president.
Joshi said Congress members had raised the issue of the political crisis faced by their coalition government on Monday and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had responded to it.
He urged the Congress members not to disturb the proceedings.
Before the government could respond on the issue, Congress, DMK, NCP and National Conference members trooped out of the House.
But other opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress and the BSP did not join the walkout, displaying disunity among non-BJP ranks.
It was the first time in the 17th Lok Sabha that the Congress staged a walkout.
Responding to the allegations, Rajnath Singh said that the Congress failed to handle the political crisis in Karnataka and termed the issue an “internal matter” of the grand old party for which he said Parliament was being disturbed.
“What is happening in Karnataka is Congress’ internal matter. But they have failed to handle the problem of their own house and are trying to disturb the proceedings of the Lower House of Parliament,” he said.
Singh, who is Deputy Leader of the House, said that the Congress was raising the issue again after it had raised it on Monday and was misusing the opportunity given to it. (IANS)