Karnataka’s CONG-JDS coalition government falls after losing trust vote

The 14-month-old Congress JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka fell on Tuesday after it was defeated on the floor of the Karnataka Assembly with about 20 MLAs of the ruling coalition defying their party whips and absenting from voting on the confidence motion moved by Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.

The confidence motion moved by the chief minister Kumaraswamy got 99 votes as against 105 of the opposition.

The 12-day political drama triggered by the resignations of over a dozen rebel MLAs belonging to the coalition who submitted their papers at the speaker’s office and left for Mumbai where they were holed up in a hotel. They defied their party whips to be present and voting on the trust motion today.

Immediately after the vote, Kumaraswamy sought an appointment with Governor, Vajubhai Vala and went to Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation.

In the 224-member House, only 204 were present and voted in the division pressed by Leader of the Opposition Yeddyurappa after the voice vote. Yeddyurappa and other BJP members showed victory signs in the House while the ruling coalition members quietly walked out.

Senior Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy who withdrew his resignation last week voted with the government. Speaker Ramesh Kumar, who belongs to the Congress, said he would vote only in case of a tie.

The defeat marks the end of an uneasy coalition that was formed after the assembly polls in May 2018, which returned a hung verdict after three main parties in the state- Congress, BJP and the JD (S) fought each other in the polls. There were differences between the coalition partners that often came to the surface but they carried on against the threat of BJP.

The voting on the trust motion started around 7.25 pm after four days of prolonged debate ignoring repeated directives of the Governor who set three deadlines for the completion of the business on Thursday and Friday, even as the battle over the resignation and disqualification of the dissident MLAs went on in the Supreme Court.

The division process was completed by a physical headcount of members who stood in their rows.

Winding up the debate that was often acrimonious, Kumaraswamy made an hour-long speech, in which he said he was ready for the trust vote and would not run away from it.

He said the last one year has been difficult and recounted all the development work taken up by the government.

The Chief Minister said he had not taken a government bungalow nor had he drawn any TA/DA because of the financial implications in a tight situation.

Leader of the Congress Legislature Party Siddaramaiah accused the BJP of indulging in horsetrading while Congress chief trouble shooter and minister DK Shivkumar said the rebel MLAs backstabbed the party and warned BJP that their turn would be next.

The BJP led by former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa largely stayed away from participating in the debate except to counter the ruling benches on rules and to repeatedly press for voting on the motion.

Ahead of the vote, clashes broke out between BJP and Congress workers outside an apartment building on Race Course Road where two independent MLAs who had announced support for the BJP were allegedly put up.

Expecting some relief from the Supreme Court, the coalition prolonged the debate in the House but the Speaker set the deadline for today saying he had a lot at stake personally and would not want to leave a bad legacy and that he had a commitment to fulfil to the apex court.

The Supreme Court today deferred hearing on a petition by two independent MLAs who sought a direction to the Speaker to conclude the trust vote business at the earliest, while the Speaker’s counsel gave an assurance that the vote would be completed today.

BJP supporters celebrated the fall of the government at the party’s state office in here.

Yeddyurappa said after the vote, “It is a victory of democracy. People were fed up with the Kumaraswamy government. I want to assure people of Karnataka that a new era of development will start now.”

BJP’s Jagadish Shettar said: “Their (rebel MLAs) resignations have not yet been accepted by Speaker, after acceptance of resignations they have to decide whether to join BJP or not. In the present scenario, we have 105 MLAs, it is a majority for the BJP, we will form a stable government.”

Congress leader H K Patil said: “This defeat is because of betrayal of our party legislators, we have come under the influence of various things. I am sure people of Karnataka will not tolerate this type of betrayal of the party.”

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