Congress leader DK Shivakumar was detained by the Mumbai police along with other party leaders from near a five-star hotel in Mumbai where he had waited for six hours to meet rebel lawmakers whose resignation has threatened the survival of the Karnataka coalition government. Shivakumar had been stopped from entering the Renaissance hotel after the rebels asked the Mumbai police for protection from him and other Karnataka coalition leaders who are trying to bring them around. A group of 10 rebel Karnataka lawmakers, whose letters of resignations have thrown the fragile Congress-Janata Dal-Secular alliance in the state into disarray, have also approached the Supreme Court, alleging that Ramesh Kumar, Speaker of the Assembly, had "abandoned his constitutional duty" and was deliberately delaying accepting their resignations.
Karnataka’s political slug fest intensified on Wednesday, with the rebel Congress and JD(S) MLAs approaching the Supreme Court against the Assembly Speaker’s decision not to accept their resignations and the Opposition BJP urging Governor Vajubhai Vala to direct a floor test by the HD Kumaraswamy government.
Meanwhile, two more Karnataka Congress legislators, MTB Nagaraj and D. Sudhakar, submitted their resignations on Wednesday, taking to 13 the number of party MLAs who have quit since July 1.
If the resignations are accepted, the party’s strength in the Assembly will reduce from 79 to 66, including the Speaker.
According to sources, 3-4 more party legislators are likely to resign before the 10-day monsoon session of the state legislature beginning Friday.
The Congress, desperate to save its government in Karnataka, raised a storm in Parliament and protested on the roads of Bengaluru, where senior party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and KC Venugopal were detained along with several party workers while taking out a protest march.
High drama was also witnessed in Mumbai where some Congress leaders, including DK Shivakumar, were detained by police after they tried to enter a hotel to meet the rebel legislators, who hooted them away.
The government’s woes increased when a lone legislator of a regional party KPJP and an Independent also resigned and withdrew their support to the ruling coalition, which has a slender majority in the Assembly.
After resignation by KPJP MLA and Independent legislator, the combined strength of the ruling allies will be reduced from 117 — 115 of the Congress-JD-S and one of BSP — to less than 113, the halfway mark for a simple majority.
If all the resignations are accepted, the strength of the Assembly will go down to 209 and the new halfway mark will be 105.
However, Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar has refused to accept the resignations of the MLAs, saying eight of them were not in the prescribed format and five others needed to explain why their action did not fall under the purview of Anti-Defection law.
The 10 MLAs, who have resigned, approached the Supreme Court against the Speaker’s decision and sought an urgent hearing on the matter.
In their plea filed through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, the rebel legislators alleged the Speaker was not performing his constitutional duty and deliberately delaying the acceptance of their resignations from the Assembly.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, assured Rohatgi that the plea would be heard, but at some later date. The apex court is most likely to hear the matter on Thursday.
The MLAs, in the petition, have made two specific prayers before the top court –direct the Speaker to accept the resignations tendered and restrain the Speaker from proceeding with application on disqualification of the MLAs.
The petitioners have also requested the court to pass an order which it may deem fit in connection with the facts and circumstances of the present case.
The petition claimed that the Speaker’s actions were “vitiated by malafide as evident in his actions.”
“Notwithstanding the same and fearing that the Chief Minister may have to tender resignation for want of confidence of the house, the Speaker is acting in a partisan manner to frustrate the will of the house”, the petitioners contended.
The petitioners contended that the Chief Minister despite being reduced to a minority is refusing to seek a vote of confidence. “And, as a result of the concerted acts between the Speaker and the government, a minority government which does not enjoy the confidence of the House, continues in power illegally. A purposive interpretation of Article 164 r/w principles of Parliamentary Sovereignty mandate that the Chief Minister should always command the confidence of the house”, said the petition.
Referring to the current political situation as extraordinary, the petitioners sought “the court to invoke its extraordinary jurisdiction for upholding the democratic principles as enshrined in the Constitution”.
The petitioners seeking court’s intervention on the matter to keep all Constitution Authorities within their limits and to ensure that there is no fraud on the Constitution.
Attacking the deliberate delay caused by the Speaker, the petitioners said his actions are not in compliance with Constitutional democracy.
“Any elected Member of the Legislature is entitled, in consultation with his conscience or other attendant circumstances to resign his membership of the Legislature. It is stated that the MLAs disenchanted with the mal-administration under the present dispensation wish to resign”, said the petitioners.
In Bengaluru, a delegation of Karnataka’s BJP met the Governor and urged him to direct the Assembly Speaker to conduct floor test, saying the Congress-JD(S) coalition government has ‘lost’ majority.
“We have petitioned the Governor to direct the Speaker to hold a floor test in the Assembly on Friday when the monsoon session begins as the coalition government lost majority and its Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has no moral right to continue anymore,” BJP’s state leader BS Yeddurappa told reporters here.
High drama played out in Mumbai too where the police detained senior Karnataka Congress leader and minister K. Shivakumar and Mumbai Congress leader Milind M. Deora and others outside the Hotel Renaissance, officials said.
Shivakumar and Deora were intending to meet the rebel MLAs who have lodged themselves in the hotel after resigning.
The Mumbai Police said it had imposed prohibitory orders around the hotel premises and detained these leaders for allegedly flouting the restrictions and took them away in waiting vans.
Earlier, Shivakumar, made an emotional appeal to the rebel party MLAs after being hooted by them.
“I won’t go without meeting my friends. They will call me. Their hearts will break. I am in touch already with them; both our hearts are beating,” Shivakumar told reporters.
Calling the rebels his “brothers”, he termed the crisis as “a family problem”, with all of them loving and respecting each other.
Referring to the apprehensions of threats expressed by the 10 MLAs in a letter to Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Barve late yesterday, Shivakumar said “there is no question of threatening anyone”.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy condemned the manhandling of two state cabinet ministers and a legislator of the ruling dispensation by the police in Mumbai.
“Manhandling ministers and MLAs is very annoying and unbecoming of #MumbaiPolice,” tweeted Kumaraswamy on reports that state Water Resources Minister (Congress) Shivakumar and state Higher Education Minister (JD-S) GT Deve Gowda were manhandled and whisked away to a university campus guest house for detention under preventive custody from a star hotel in Mumbai earlier in the day.
Ruling Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) legislator Shivalinge Gowda, who was with the two ministers, was also reportedly roughed up by the Mumbai Police.
“Such hasty acts by the (Bharatiya Janata Party ruled) Maharashtra government reinforces the suspicion on #BJP of #HorseTrading,” Kumaraswamy tweeted.
Shivakumar, known as the party’s troubleshooter and saviour, flew to Mumbai early in the day from Bengaluru, ostensibly to meet the 10 rebel legislators from the Congress-JD-S who had resigned and are staying in the hotel since July 6 night, and to pacify them so that they withdraw their resignations.
Of the 10 rebel lawmakers in Mumbai, seven are from the Congress and three from the JD-S.
“This is a black mark on the republic set up of our country,” tweeted the Chief Minister, tagging Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the rebels refused to meet Shivakumar and sought police security fearing a threat to their lives from him, the Congress minister was not allowed to enter the hotel though he too booked a room to stay in the same hotel. (IANS)