Bengaluru/New Delhi: The 13-month-old H.D. Kumaraswamy government, which remained on the edge, could be asked to prove its majority in the Assembly on July 17 by Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar who refused on Tuesday to accept resignations of all the 13 Congress and JD-S legislators.
The woes of the ruling coalition increased as one more Congress MLA tendered his resignation, taking to 17 the number of legislators of the combine who have quit over the last few days. With suspended lawmaker R. Roshan Baig quitting, the number of Congress lawmakers who have resigned has gone up to 12. Three JD-S MLAs also resigned. Besides them, one legislator of regional party KPJP and an Independent, have also quit as ministers and withdrawn their support to the Kumaraswamy government.
The Speaker, however, refused to accept the resignations of the Congress and JD-S members, saying eight of them were not in the prescribed format and five others needed to explain why their action did not fall under the purview of the anti-defection law. The legislators have been given time till July 21 to re-submit their resignations and explain reasons for quitting, he said. Congress MLA Ramalinga Reddy, who has tendered his resignation, is said to be the key among the rebels and his daughter Soumya Reddy, also a Congress legislator, met UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Tuesday, according to sources.
Meanwhile, the rebel Congress MLAs, who resigned from their Assembly seats three days back, skipped on Tuesday the party's legislature meeting in Bengaluru, which was attended only by 60 of the 78 party MLAs. At least 10 of the rebel Congress MLAs have been camping in Mumbai since July 6 after they submitted their resignations to the secretary of the Speaker in his absence and meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala at the Raj Bhavan.
As the Congress resorted to a fire-fight to save its government, it raked up the matter of resignations in Parliament, accusing the BJP of being behind it to destabilize the ruling coalition. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh rejected the charge, saying it was an internal problem of the Congress which was unable to handle it. The ruling coalition of JD-S-Congress, with the support of one MLA each of BSP and the KPJP and one Independent, has 118 MLAs in the 225-member Assembly, just five more than the required majority mark. The Opposition BJP has 105 MLAs.
The Speaker on Tuesday asked all the MLAs, who have tendered their resignations, to meet him personally to clarify on their resignation letters. "As the remaining eight resignations of legislators of both the parties are not in the right format, I have given them time till July 21 to re-submit them and explain reasons for quitting from their respective Assembly constituencies," Kumar said. "I have summoned all the legislators of both the parties (Congress and JD-S) to meet me on July 12, July 15 and July 21, as their resignations are faulty and explanations are not in accordance with the law under Section 202 of the procedure and conduct of business in Karnataka Assembly," he said.
The Speaker also asked the Congress to send its representatives on July 11 for discussing its twin petitions on disqualifying 9 out of the 10 rebels and rejecting their resignations as they were not voluntary and genuine. However, some of the rebel MLAs wrote to the Speaker, asking him to to consider them "voluntary". On the Governor's letter informing him of the resignations, the Speaker said: "I wrote to him that the rebels met him but not me and they did not seek appointment with me on July 6 when they came to my office to submit their resignations in my absence."
On ministers H. Nagesh (Independent) and R. Shankar (KPJP) giving Vala a copy of their resignations from the ministry and of giving support to the BJP, Kumar said he had told the Governor that he had no role as they resigned as ministers and not legislators. Of the five legislators, whose resignations were in order, Anand Singh, Ramalinga Reddy and Pratapgouda Patil are of the Congress while N. Narayana Gowda and K. Gopalaiah are of the JD-S. "I have asked Singh, Patil and Gowda to meet me on July 12 to explain their resignations and ensure they were voluntary and genuine as per the law," Kumar said.
The Speaker summoned Reddy and Gopalaiah on July 15 to explain the reasons for their resignations. The eight legislators whose resignations are faulty and have been told to resubmit them in the right format are B.C. Patil, S.T. Somshekar, Byrati Basavaraj, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathalli, Shivram Hebbar, Munirathna (all Congress) and A.H. Vishwanath of the JD-S. The Speaker's directive came hours after Baig, an eight-time lawmaker from Shivajinagar Assembly seat, submitted his resignation letter to the Speaker in his office.
Baig, 67, was suspended from the party on June 19 for his attack on the party's state in-charge K.C. Venugopal, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Siddaramaiah and state unit President Dinesh Gundu Rao for the party's rout in the recent Lok Sabha elections. The Congress, which contested the Lok Sabha polls in pre-poll alliance with its coalition partner JD-S, won only one of the 21 seats it contested. The JD-S also managed to win only one seat. The opposition BJP swept the polls, bagging 25 of the 27 seats in the state.
The Congress, which is making desperate attempts to save the government, convened a meeting of the legislators on Tuesday in Bengaluru but none of the rebel MLAs turned up for it, despite being given a notice on July 7 to be present, party spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS. Of the party's 78 legislators, Gowda said about 60 attended the meeting while five to six had informed CLP leader Siddaramaiah in advance of their inability to attend.
In Delhi, the Congress members created uproar in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, accusing the BJP of being behind the rebellion in the ruling coalition in Karnataka to topple it. The Congress members disrupted the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, preventing it from functioning and forcing its adjournment for the day. In the Lok Sabha, the Congress members, joined by the members of the DMK, NCP and National Conference, staged a walkout. Prior to that, Congress leader in the House Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the BJP was indulging in "poaching politics". Amidst the deepening crisis, the Congress rushed its senior leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to Bengaluru for damage control.