Karnataka government set for trust vote amid boycott threat (Roundup)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BANGALORE - Karnataka is set for another trust vote Thursday, which the opposition parties have threatened to boycott while the high court Wednesday ruled that the result would be subject to its judgment in the case relating to the disqualification of 16 rebel legislators by assembly Speaker K.G. Bopaiah.

Though Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa managed to prove his majority by a voice vote Monday amid chaos and confusion, the the high court declining to stay the disqualifications gives the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) an edge over the combined opposition, as the strength of the 225-member legislative assembly is reduced to 208, with 105 as the halfway mark to win the trust vote.

After its 11 dissident legislators were disqualified Monday, the strength of the ruling party is 106, including the speaker, while the combined opposition has 101, with the Congress having 73 and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) 28.

The lone independent Varthur Prakash, who was with the opposition till Monday, jumped to the ruling party Wednesday to vote in favour of the confidence motion, as he wanted the first 29-month-old BJP government in the southern state to complete its term.

In an attempt to defeat the government, the five disqualified independents rushed to the high court for a direction to the speaker to allow them to exercise their vote on the floor of the house as their joint writ petition was pending and posted for hearing Oct 18.

But a division bench of Chief Justice K.S. Khehar and Justice N. Kumar declined to allow them to submit their votes in a sealed cover to the court.

The division bench also rejected the independents’ plea to postpone the session, as Justice Khehar said they did not have the power to direct the speaker.

The five independents, who were also cabinet ministers in the 34-member Yeddurappa government, are Shivaraj S. Tangadagi, Venkataramanappa, P.M. Narendra Swamy, D. Sudhakar and Gulihatti Shekar.

Earlier, the Congress and the JD-S slammed Governor H.R. Bhardwaj for asking Yeddyurappa to take the floor test afresh a day after he recommended president’s rule in the state on the grounds that there was a constitutional breakdown and that the Monday’s trust vote was not conducted in accordance with the legislature’s rules.

We are planning to boycott the trust vote session, as it is not only unprecedented, but also unconstitutional on the part of the governor to have called for it again when the case against the disqualified legislators is pending in court, an enraged Congress legislative party leader Siddaramiah told reporters here.

Echoing the Congress, JD-S state unit president and former chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said his party legislators may also stay away from the trust vote.

The governor has already termed the trust vote taken through voice Monday a farce and recommended president’s rule, citing a constitutional breakdown in the state, as the proceedings were conducted against the rules amid chaotic scenes and confusion. How can he (governor) ask the chief minister to take the floor test again, a miffed Kumaraswamy asked after calling on Bhardwaj at Raj Bhavan late Wednesday.

The division bench Tuesday posted the disqualification case of the independents to Oct 18 after directing their counsel K.G. Raghavan to re-submit the amended writ plea as the original petition was flawed.

The bench also reserved its judgment in the disqualification case of the 11 BJP rebel legislators after their defence counsel and the prosecution concluded arguments Tuesday.

Bopaiah disqualified the rebels Oct 11 in response to a petition by the ruling party Oct 8 after they withdrew support to the government, expressing lack of faith in the leadership of Yeddyurappa.

The independents also challenged the speaker’s directive to reply to his show-cause notice in two days (Oct 10) as against the mandatory seven days in accordance with the Karnataka legislature’s rules.

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