Alert to the possibility that the Supreme Court could ask it to prove its majority on the floor of the Karnataka Assembly before schedule, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday made efforts to woo Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) MLAs.
It also prepared for the eventuality of losing the floor test. With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the first decision of the new Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa was to reach out to farmers of Karnataka. All farm loans of up to Rs 100,000 would be written off, he announced.
In a dramatic turn of events, the SC heard the Congress-JD(S) petition against Governor Vajubhai Vala’s invite to Yeddyurappa for nearly three and a half hours on Thursday starting at 1.45 am. It refused to stop the oath-taking ceremony, but made it clear that the swearing-in and government formation by the BJP was subject to the outcome of the case before it.
The bench, comprising judges A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, will hear the matter again on Friday and has asked the BJP to furnish in the court the letter of support from newly-elected legislators that Yeddyurappa submitted to the Governor when he staked claim to form the government.
To highlight how inviting the BJP was “illegal”, Opposition parties in Manipur, Meghalaya, Goa and Bihar are likely to approach their respective governors to demand they be allowed to prove their majority in the assembly.
The Congress hopes this will put sufficient pressure on the judiciary that two different laws cannot possibly be applied to identical situations.
The Congress and several Opposition parties will observe Friday as “save democracy day”. The Congress has argued the letter submitted by Yeddyurappa has only 104 signatures, which is clearly short of the majority mark of 112-seats in the 222-member assembly. The Congress-JD(S) had submitted a letter with 117 signatures.
The Congress-JD (S) combine pointed out that giving 15 days to prove majority has opened the door for horse-trading, and the period should be reduced.
After a protest outside the state assembly against the Governor’s decision, Congress legislators were taken to separate resorts to ensure BJP couldn’t reach out to them. However, Congress sources conceded that two of the party’s legislators may have already defected. Congress said its legislator Anand Singh was being threatened by central probe agencies.
Congress leader Ramalinga Reddy alleged that the security personnel were asked to leave by the state administration and BJP workers came in and started offering money to party legislators. Congress sources said they planned to take their legislators to Kochi in chartered flights, but the Air Traffic Control at Bengaluru denied them permission. The Congress was also exploring transporting their legislators in buses to Kochi, a five to six hour journey by road. The JD(S) was making similar preparations for its legislators.
BJP Lok Sabha member Shobha Karandlaje tweeted that her party was in contact with Congress legislators who were upset with the party leadership for aligning with the JD(S). Congress leaders criticised BJP for openly indulging in purchasing MLAs.
The BJP needs the effective strength of the legislative assembly to come down to win the floor test. Currently, the assembly has 222 seats, and the BJP's number is 104. With the majority mark at 112, the BJP either needs support from eight legislators to increase its numbers or bring the effective strength of the assembly down with some legislators quitting. BJP sources said the party had reached out to some of the Lingayat legislators of the Congress. They said these legislators were upset at the Congress supporting H D Kumaraswamy, a Vokkaliga. The BJP has asked these Congress legislators to quit their respective seats, and that the party will either help them get re-elected from the same seats in the by-elections, or they will be sent to the legislative council. Half a dozen Karnataka legislative council seats are to fall vacant in June.
The Congress on Thursday said Yeddyurappa will prove to be a “one-day chief minister” as he lacks numbers.
The Congress-JD(S) combine on Thursday also moved the SC against Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala's alleged move to nominate an Anglo-Indian member to the assembly, saying it should not be done till the floor test in the House. The interim application is likely to be heard on Friday along with the main petition of the combine.
According to the plea, All India Anglo-Indian Association, in a letter written to the Governor on May 16 by its president, said the "constitutional rights of Anglo-Indians may not be exploited for political purposes" and the nomination be made only after the floor test. The strength of the Karnataka Assembly is 224, of which elections were held for 222 seats and the nomination of one Anglo-Indian member would take the number to 225.