Karnataka Speaker Ramesh Kumar disqualifies three rebel Congress MLAs till 2023

Kumar held that the resignation by the three MLAs were “not voluntary and genuine” and therefore proceeded to disqualify them under the anti-defection law with immediate effect.

BENGALURU: A group of rebels MLAs brought the Congress-JDS coalition tumbling down in Karnataka, and two days later, three of them have been disqualified from the assembly.

Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Thursday night announced the disqualification of Ranebennur MLA R Shankar, who switched sides at least thrice since the 2018 assembly elections, Gokak MLA Ramesh Jarkiholi and Athani MLA Mahesh Kumtahalli from the 15th legislative assembly of Karnataka till the expiry of its term.

All three MLAs were disqualified under the anti-defection law under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.

Ramesh Kumar’s ruling comes as a shot in the arm for the Congress-JDS coalition which has been keen that the rebel MLAs be ‘taught a lesson’.

The BJP’s position, which was hopeful of getting Shankar’s support in the House, has been further weakened with his disqualification.

Ramesh Kumar’s ruling in the case of the three MLAs has set the ball rolling for the BJP to chart out its next course of action.

After the Speaker’s office approved Shankar’s petition dated June 14, 2019, to merge his Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party (KPJP) with the Congress, Ramesh Kumar said he was declared part of the Congress legislature party and was even allotted a seat accordingly.

“On July 8, he submitted a letter to the Governor that he was withdrawing support to the coalition and was extending equivocal support to the BJP. The Congress legislature party chief filed a complaint under the anti-defection law. The trust vote has already been held and these ruling should have come before it. The purpose of the law gets defeated if we take action after time has elapsed. I must concede failure on my part for the delay in processing the petitions. However, intending to send out a message that such things should not continue in the country’s politics, I disqualify Shankar as a member from the 15th assembly,” Ramesh Kumar said.

Citing Dr Umesh Jadhav’s case, where he submitted a sworn affidavit that he was loyal to the Congress and would not quit, but had joined the BJP within days of his resignation being accepted, Ramesh Kumar made a case for his ruling against Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumtahalli.

“In the light of the judgment in the Umesh Jadhav case, Ramesh Jarkiholi and Mahesh Kumtahallli’s resignations don’t seem voluntary and genuine. Both MLAs have incurred disqualified under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution of India. Both MLAs cease to be members of the assembly from this date till the expiry of the term of this assembly,” Ramesh Kumar said.

Of the 17 resignations pending before him, Ramesh Kumar gave a ruling in just three cases while assuring to announce his ruling on the rest of the petitions within a couple of days.

Repercussions of the Ruling

For the Congress-JDS coalition, which was keen on punishing the rebels for bringing down the government, Speaker Ramesh Kumar’s ruling has come as a moral victory.

“Resignations came before the disqualification petitions in other cases, but the order doesn’t matter. What matters is the MLAs’ conduct and intent,” Ramesh Kumar said hinting at how the rest of the resignations and disqualification may be dealt with.

“I welcome the Speaker’s decision to disqualify three of our legislators for anti-party activity. Such stern decisions are required to safeguard democracy. Let this be an alarm bell for those who violate people’s mandate for selfish gains,” tweeted Congress Legislature Party chief Siddaramaiah.

While the Speaker has categorically stated that the disqualified MLAs cannot be elected as members to the current assembly, the ruling may have no impact if the assembly is dissolved and fresh elections are called for in the state.

The possibility of snap polls puts the state unit of the BJP, which is waiting with bated breath to stake claim to form the government, in a helpless situation.

If all other resignations also go the way the three were dealt with on Thursday, the BJP central leadership would rather allow the House to go into suspended animation than stake claim to form a ‘minority government’.

The suspension of three MLAs brings down the strength of the House to 222 including the Speaker, with 112 being the simple majority. Even with independent MLA Nagesh’s support, BJP will only have 106 MLAs — six short of a simple majority.

“Politics aside, the state can’t be made to suffer. It becomes the responsibility of all parties to ensure the Finance Bill passes. It can’t be passed through Presidential assent. It will either lead to President’s rule or suspension of the assembly. If the next chief minister seeks my support, as a constitutional obligation I will support them to get the Finance Bill passed for the welfare of the state,” Kumar said hinting at the possibility of a government not being in power before time lapses for the Finance bill, which will lead to a constitutional crisis.

Source: The New Indian Express

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