Bengaluru: In a major move, Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on Thursday disqualified three MLAs from the 15thAssembly with immediate effect invoking the Anti-Defection Act. The three MLAs are Independent MLA R Shankar from Renebennur, Congress lawmakers Ramesh Jarkhiholi from Gokak and Mahesh Kumathalli from Athani.
The Speaker accepted the plea of the Congress to disqualify the MLAs. The MLAs stand disqualified till the end of the Assembly’s term which is May 2023. But the Speaker controversially said the three MLAs cannot contest the bypolls. This goes against the Tamil Nadu case where the 18 MLAs were allowed to contest bypolls. It is the Election Commission that holds the polls and not the Speaker. The EC will go by the Tamil Nadu precedent. On this ground alone the Speaker’s decision can be challenged.
The Speaker said he would take a decision on other MLAs as he needs time to study the documents and apply his mind. “The whole nation, the Supreme Court are watching me,” he said.
He said he will not take a long time, just a couple of days. This selective cherry-picking of MLAs has raised eyebwrows and expert say that the disqualification move is to drive fear down the spine of other rebel MLAs who are in Mumbai. Will they troop back to the Assembly is the big question.
It is to be seen how the MLAs would react. They can either approach the High Court or directly go to the Supreme Court.
The Speaker admitted that he is making a rare precedent by rejecting the resignation of the three MLAs on the ground of circumstances, past statements of the MLAs and the way they came to submit the resignations. “I was convinced that the resignations were not genuine,” he said.
Kumar said he will continue to be the Speaker till the end of the Assembly term. “There is no question of my resigning. I will co-operate with the next government if they seek my cooperation,” he said. “But if the new government does not want me, they can impeach me through constitutional means and I shall go home”, he added.
He also said that the state is heading for a constitutional crisis as the financial bill has to be passed before July 31, failing which the state will come to a standstill. I hope this does not happen,” he added.
In an unusual diversion, Kumar said he had used various factors in arriving at a decision on the disqualification. And then he indirectly took on the Supreme Court saying judges deliver judgment, not necessarily justice. The judges depend on the documents on hand. But to deliver justice, there is need to beyond documents. “I have done that by looking into the past statements of the MLAs, their sworn affidavits and other circumstances like the way they came to submit their resignations,” he said.
On how he can disqualify independent lawmaker R Shankar, the Speaker said the MLA had merged his KPJP party with the Congress. So he has become a Congressman and Congress leader Siddaramaiah had written a letter to this effect.
Meanwhile, the BJP high command did not give the green signal to BS Yeddyurappa to stake claim to form the next government though the BJP strongman had made arrangements for his swearing in.
A BJP delegation which went to Delhi failed to meet BJP president and Home Minister Amit Shah or working president JP Nadda indicating that the top leaders were not happy or confident at the way things are panning out in the state.
Taking potshots at this, Congress leader DK Shivakumar said the BJP is scared as the rebel MLAs will give them a nightmare. “They will pick Yeddyurappa’s pocket and even take his shirt off,” he said.
Meanwhile, all eyes will be on two factors: how the MLAs would react and if BJP would be able to form a government in the light of the Speaker’s decision.
As things stand now, Karnataka looks like heading for President’s Rule.