For the third day running, the Karnataka assembly debated the confidence motion moved by chief minister H D Kumaraswamy with the Congress insisting that it not be put to vote till the chair decides on the resignations submitted by the rebel MLAs to the House.
Right from the time when the proceedings began, speaker K R Ramesh Kumar repeatedly reminded the government to honour its commitment to complete the trust process by Monday itself.
As the House resumed its sitting after an hour’s delay, the speaker made it clear, “Everybody is watching us. Please don’t make me a scapegoat. Let us reach our goal,” stressing that the process should reach finality on Monday.
Chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had moved the confidence motion on Thursday to decide the fate of the Congress-JDS government, rocked by rebellion by a section of its MLAs threatening its survival.
The debate on the confidence motion prolonged to Friday, with the ruling coalition defying the two deadlines set by governor Vajubhai Vala — to complete the process by 1.30pm on Friday and later by the end of the day.
The proceedings were adjourned till Monday after the speaker extracted a commitment from the government that the process would be completed by Monday itself.
“It will not bring respect to the House or to me,” the speaker made his position clear, implying that the trust vote should not be delayed further, amid reports that the ruling coalition had sought two more days time for voting.
“We are in public life. People are watching. In the name of discussion, if an opinion is created that we are wasting time, it won’t be right on my part or anybody else’s,” he said.
The Congress’ position was stated during the debate on the confidence motion by senior minister Krishna Byre Gowda, who said that taking up the voting without the speaker’s decision on the resignation issue would leave the confidence motion process without any sanctity.
“We are in an extraordinary situation … I request the chair to decide on the resignation first. Or else, it will (confidence vote) will have no standing,” Gowda said, as the debate on the trust vote dragged on for the third day.
“Is the resignation voluntary and genuine. Aren’t they against democracy?” he asked.
Mounting an attack on the BJP-led government at the Centre, Gowda charged that there was a “systematic effort” to eliminate the “political opposition” in the country and the operation in Karnataka by the BJP was part of such an attempt.
Alleging that there was an “undeclared emergency” in the country, Gowda told the BJP, “the blood of democracy is on your hands.”
He also appealed to the rebel lawmakers to reconsider their stand.
The BJP suspects that the voting is being delayed by the Congress-JD(S) government only to buy time to win back the rebel MLAs, whose resignations have pushed it to the precipice.
The governor shot off two missives to the chief minister, setting deadlines on Friday to conclude the proceedings, expressing fear that the delay only gives rise to the scope for horse-trading.
He had also pointed out that he has “prima facie satisfaction” that the government has lost its majority.
Senior BJP leaders Jagadish Shettar and Madhuswamy told the speaker that the business on confidence motion should be completed by Monday itself and the debate should not be dragged on endlessly.
The speaker also on Monday gave a ruling that a legislature party leader has the right to issue a whip.
“Issuing whip is your right. Following them is left to the MLAs. If any complaint comes to me, I will follow rules and take a decision,” Kumar told Congress legislature party leader Siddaramaiah, who had raised a point of order on the issue of whip in the light of the Supreme Court order last week.
When the confidence motion was moved on Thursday last, Siddaramaiah had pressed for deferring it till the speaker decided on the issue of whip in the wake of the apex court verdict on the political crisis in the state.
Siddaramaiah had said that the 15 ruling coalition rebel MLAs were influenced by the apex court order that they can abstain from attending the assembly proceedings and asked the speaker to give a ruling on the fate of the whip issued by him as CLP leader.
“If this motion is taken up, then it will not be constitutional. It violates the constitutional provisions. I request you to defer it. I want your ruling on this point of order,” Siddaramaiah had told the speaker.
Seeking to exert pressure on the government, BJP asked Kumaraswamy “to resign and go” if he has faith in the Constitution and people of the state.
The BJP said Kumaraswamy himself moved the confidence motion, but the trust process was still prolonging.
In its Facebook page, the BJP said, “If at all you have faith and respect for the Constitution and the people of the state, you resign and go home.
The BJP ran a hashtag in Kannada, “people of the state will not forgive you.”
As many as 16 MLAs — 13 from the Congress and three from JDS — had resigned, while independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh withdrew their support to the coalition government, pushing the government to the precipice.
One Congress member Ramalinga Reddy retracted from his decision to resign, saying he would support the government.
The ruling combine’s strength is 117 — Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1, and nominated 1, besides the speaker. If the resignations of 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and three from JDS) are accepted or if they stay away, the ruling coalition’s tally will plummet to 101, reducing the government to a minority.
With the support of the two independents, the opposition BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House.