Rebel Karnataka MLAs joining BJP will trigger crisis for party

Bengaluru: All the 17 rebel MLAs of the Congress and JDS who helped the BJP pull down the HD Kumaraswamy led Congress-JDS government in July will formally join the BJP tomorrow.

Announcing this to the media, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa was however silent if these MLAs would be given party tickets to contest the bypoll slated for December 5.

The decision to take them in to the BJP came after the Supreme Court today ruled that though their disqualification stands, they are free to contest the upcoming by-elections.

The seats fell vacant following the disqualification of the MLAs by former Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar.

While Yediyurappa is keen to give the rebel MLAs a ticket, senior BJP leaders are upset. They have made their stand categoric that the party should not ‘honour’ late entrants at the cost of loyalists. They point out to what happened to the rebels from other parties who were fielded on BJP tickets in Maharashtra.

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Moreover, many rebel MLAs have been, in the past, having a bitter battle with senior BJP leaders in their respective constituencies. These leaders may sabotage the chances of the rebel MLAs in the coming bypolls.

But by bringing them into the party, indications are that the rebel MLAs would be rewarded with a ticket.

The bypolls are crucial for the BJP as it comes in the wake of a major crisis in Maharashtra and the poor showing in Haryana. If the BJP fails to bag the vacant seats, it will be another blow and an indicator that the poll winds are not in their favour.

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Bypolls to 15 out of 17 Karnataka assembly seats, which became vacant following the disqualification of MLAs, are scheduled on December 5 and results would be declared on Dec 9. The Election Commission has not announced bypolls in Maski and Rajarajeshwari segments as petitions are pending in Karnataka High Court relating to the 2018 assembly election in the state.

Earlier, the Supreme Court today ruled that the Speaker stand disqualifying the 17 rebel MLA is valid, but struck down the order barring them from standing for any elections till the end of the present term of the Assembly which is 2023.

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The Congress and the JDS were keen to teach the rebel MLAs a lesson and the Speaker played along saying that he viewed the amendments to the Anti-Defection Law differently.

But the three-judge bench of justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari told Kumar that  “The speaker in the exercise of powers does not have the power to indicate the period for which a person is barred from contesting an election.”

The court also told him that there is a growing trend of Speakers acting against the “constitutional duty of being neutral” in addition to political parties indulging in horse-trading and corrupt practices due to which citizens are being denied stable governments. Speaker Ramesh Kumar is a senior Congress leader.

The Speaker, being a neutral person, is expected to act independently while conducting the proceedings of the House or adjudication petitions, it said in the case filed by the rebel MLAs.

The disqualified MLAs are: Pratap Gowda Patil, BC Patil, Shivram Hebbar, ST Somashekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, N Munirathna, K Sudhakar and MTB Nagaraj, Shrimant Patil, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli and R Shankar (all Congress). JD(S) members who faced action are K Gopalaiah, AH Vishwanath and KC Narayana Gowda.