Karnataka Assembly to convene tomorrow amid resignation spree in ruling camp

Bengaluru, Jul 11 (IANS): The spree of resignations by MLAs of the ruling Congress and JD(S) is set to resonate in the Karnataka Assembly when it convenes on Friday for a 10-day session amidst Opposition BJPs demand for a floor test and ouster of the H.D. Kumaraswamy government.

The session had been convened in the normal course before the 13-month-old government plunged into a crisis, triggered on July 6 by a string of resignations by 18 legislators who were part of the ruling coalition.

In the 225-member Assembly, including one nominated, the Congress had 79 MLAs, including Speaker, and JD(S) had 37 before the resignation by 16 MLAs. Lone members of BSP and KPJP (a regional outfit) besides an Independent also were with the government.

However, 16 MLAs - 13 of the Congress and 3 of the JD(S) -- have tendered their resignations over the last few days. The KPJP legislator and the Independent have also quit and withdrawn their support to the government.

If the Speaker accepts all the resignations, the Assembly's effective strength will drop to 209 from 225 and the ruling coalition will be reduced to 100, when the halfway mark would be 105.

The Speaker has so far refused to accept the resignations, saying some of those were not in prescribed format and others need to explain in person why action could not be taken against them under the Anti-Defection law.

The rebel MLAs moved the Supreme Court against the Speaker's decision. The top court asked them to meet the Speaker at 6 pm on Thursday and said the Speaker should take a decision on Thursday itself.

Hours later, the Speaker also moved the Supreme Court, seeking vacation of its order.

On the other hand, the BJP, sensing an opportunity with 105 MLAs, is pressing for a floor test of the Kumaraswamy government, saying that it has "lost" majority in the Assembly after 16 rebel legislators of the ruling allies resigned and two Independents withdrew support to it for various reasons.

The BJP has also appealed to the Governor to direct the Speaker to hold the floor test.

"If the Speaker accepts the resignations of all the 13 Congress and 3 JD-S members, the assembly's strength will reduce to 209 from 225, with 105 as the new halfway mark for a simple majority," BJP's state unit spokesman G. Madhusudan told IANS.

"We will not allow the Assembly to take up the listed business till the government proves it has majority in the absence of the 18 legislators of the ruling allies who resigned and are unlikely to be present in the House as they have already decided," said Madhusudan.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who also holds the Finance portfolio, presented the state budget in the Assembly on February 8 for vote-on-account and the Finance bill has to be passed within four months or by July 31, whichever is earlier.

"If Kumaraswamy moves the Finance Bill for passing the budget, we will ask Assembly Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar how the budget could be passed by a government which has no majority in the House," asserted Madhusudan.

The May 2018 Assembly elections gave a split verdict and threw up a hung house, with none of the main parties having a simple majority of 113 legislators in the 225-member House.

The Kumaraswamy government was sworn-in on May 23, 2018 after the Congress and its then arch rival JD(S) formed a post-poll alliance to keep the BJP out of power.

In a last-ditch effort to rein in the rebels, the allies have issued a whip to all their legislators to be present in the assembly from Friday for passing the state budget (finance bill) and participate in the discussions on other subjects till the session ends on February 24.

"The whip has been issued even to the rebels, as their resignations have not been accepted by the Speaker so far," Congress spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS.

The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah has also petitioned the Speaker on Monday to disqualify the party lawmakers who defy the whip irrespective of their status and skip the session.

The rebels, however, claimed that disqualification would not apply to them as they have already resigned from their respective Assembly segments and submitted the letters to the Speaker as well as the Governor on July 6.