Power struggle goes on as Karnataka government defies deadlines

Updated: Jul 20, 2019, 08:52 IST | PTI

Assembly adjourned till Monday; CM moves SC, questioning the two deadlines set by the Governor one after another to complete the floor test

Power struggle goes on as Karnataka government defies deadlines
Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in the Assembly in Bengaluru. Pic/PTI

Bengaluru: In a face-off with Governor Vajubhai Vala, the JDS-Congress government in Karnataka defied the two deadlines set by him to demonstrate its majority in the Assembly Friday itself, worsening the political logjam. The assembly was adjourned till Monday after the governor's 1.30 pm deadline and the second one to conclude the confidence motion process by Friday itself was ignored, prolonging the climax to the ceaseless power struggle. As the first deadline neared, the ruling coalition vociferously questioned the governor's power to issue such a direction, with Kumaraswamy citing a Supreme Court verdict that a governor cannot act as ombudsman of the legislature. The second missive by the governor was dismissed as a "love letter" by Kumaraswamy who criticised Vala for talking about horse-trading now "when it had been happening" for the last several days.

Before adjourning the House for the day, Speaker Ramesh Kumar said the motion of confidence would reach finality on Monday and it would not be prolonged further under any circumstances, to which the government agreed. In his second missive to Kumaraswamy, the governor expressed his "prima facie satisfaction" that the government has lost its majority confidence of the house. "When the allegations of horse-trading are widely made and I am receiving many complaints, it is constitutionally imperative that the floor test be completed without any delay and today itself. "I, therefore, require you to prove your majority and complete and conclude the floor test procedure today," Vala told Kumaraswamy in the second letter since Thursday. The governor said he was receiving various reports about the attempts being made for horse-trading. "This can be averted only if the exercise of conducting the floor test is conducted at the earliest and without any delay," the governor said. As he was speaking on the confidence motion, Kumaraswamy said, "I have received the second love letter" from the governor. He has got gnanodaya (awareness) now. Governor talks about horsetrading in the letter... was he not aware of it till now," Kumaraswamy said.

"Let us do politics...we are also here...we will not fear and run away. Why couldn't the governor see horse-trading when the MLAs were resigning," he said. Referring to 15 rebel MLAs of ruling Congress and JDS resignations and their stay in a Mumbai hotel, he asked "If the governor had taken action when the MLAs resigned, will all these special aircraft (to shift the MLAs) have flown. "Governor gave police protection to MLAs until they left," Kumaraswamy alleged. "I seek your protection," the chief minister told the Speaker and left the letter (deadline) issue to him. Kumaraswamy, who had moved the confidence motion Thursday, said 25 to 26 members had to still speak on the confidence motion and requested the speaker to give them the time. The House, which missed the Governor's 1.30 pm deadline for the voting on the confidence motion, was also locked in a debate on when the trust vote process should be completed. "Lot of discussion has happened; I want to close it (trust motion process) today," the speaker said towards the end of the day's proceedings. He also said, "Caesar's wife should be above suspicion; I cannot be guilty of dragging proceedings."

Kumaraswamy said "I have made preliminary submission; we can conclude (the process) on Monday." BJP leader Suresh Kumar said sanctity of trust vote would be lost if dragged on and insisted the process be completed Friday itself. As the assembly clock struck 1.30 pm, the BJP insisted on a division on the confidence motion in accordance with the letter by the governor to him. The House was then adjourned till 3 pm amid ruckus with both the BJP and Congress members locked in heated exchanges over the governor's role. Vala had Thursday set the 1.30 pm deadline for proving the majority within hours after the voting on the confidence motion could not take place with the Speaker adjourning the day's proceedings in the assembly. As the deadline approached, BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa stood up and pressed for division on the confidence motion and his party insisted that Kumaraswamy should make it clear whether he would obey the governor's directive or not. The Speaker said there was a process to be followed and the motion would be put to vote, if pressed for, according to rules after discussion. Senior ministers R V Deshpande and Krishna Byre Gowda asserted that once the motion was moved, it was the property of the House and no one can insist to do things in a specific way. Amid pandemonium, Congress members accused the BJP of misusing the governor's office to conspire against the government and shouted slogans, "Go back governor."

Kumaraswamy mounted a scathing attack on the BJP accusing it of offering Rs 40-50 crore bribe to the ruling coalition legislators to lure them away and bring down his government. He alleged that an atmosphere was created from day one that "this government will go" and it was unstable. "After 14 months (in power), we have come to the final stage," Kumaraswamy said. "Let's have discussion. You can still form government. Nothing urgent. You can do it on Monday or Tuesday also. I am not going to misuse power," Kumaraswamy told BJP. He further said: "...from the day I came to power, I know it won't be for long... how long you will sit in power, I am here to see...how stable your government will be with the people who are now helping you," he said. He was making an apparent reference to the 15 dissident Congress and JDS MLAs whose resignations from the assembly has triggered the present crisis. Allegations of bribery flew thick and fast as the debate progressed with the ruling coalition ministers and members targeting the BJP for its alleged toppling game.

"Legislators were offered Rs 40-50 crore to lure them; whose money is it?" asked Kumaraswamy hitting out at BJP even as the opposition party members remained unruffled apparently to ensure there was no disorder that would disturb voting. JDS MLA Srinivas Gowda alleged he was offered Rs 5 crore bribe by BJP to defect to bring down the government. Minister Sa Ra Mahesh alleged Vishwanath (JDS former state president) had told him that he needs money as he has election-related loan of Rs 28 crore. Krishna Byre Gowda alleged hundreds of crores of rupees were being pumped in to bring down the government. In his speech, Kumaraswamy accused BJP of resorting to ways to circumvent the anti-defection law. Kumaraswamy asked BJP why it is in a hurry to end the trust vote debate in one day if it was sure of its numbers. "Why is the BJP in a hurry, if they have the numbers... why the hurry to end the debate in one day.... I know it is not easy to get your MLAs," Kumaraswamy said looking towards Yeddyurappa.

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