The Supreme Court on Friday overruled Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala and asked Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the assembly at 4 pm on Saturday. The Governor had given 15 days to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority.
The court said the Yeddyurappa government should not take any major decision till its majority is proven. After being sworn in as CM on Thursday, Yeddyurappa had announced waiver of all farm loans of up to Rs 100,000.
The SC order is seen as a triple blow to the BJP as it has been given 48 hours to prove its claim of majority, the voting will be by show of hands, and it cannot choose the Anglo-Indian member in the thin minority government.
The court also asked a pro-tem speaker be appointed for administering oaths and conducting the floor test. In the evening, the Governor appointed the BJP’s K G Bopaiah pro-tem speaker but the Congress moved the SC against the appointment, saying it “violated parliamentary practices”.
The Congress said the senior-most member of the assembly has appointed pro-tem speaker, which in Karnataka Assembly was eight-time legislator and Congress member R V Deshpande (Bopaiah is a three-term lawmaker). The BJP said appointing the senior-most legislator pro-tem speaker was merely a convention.
The pro-tem speaker has convened the House at 11am to administer oath of office. Only those administered the oath can vote in the floor test.
In its Friday order, the SC Bench, presided over by Justice A K Sikri, also directed the legislators be provided adequate protection. In an hour-long hearing in a jam-packed court, the Bench said the nomination of the lone Anglo-Indian member to the assembly should be done only after the floor test.
Meanwhile, speculation, claims and counter-claims of defections and threats by leaders of the parties in the fray — the BJP on one side, and Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) alliance on the other — continued in Bengaluru.
BJP sources claimed they were in touch with Congress legislators while JD(S) sources warned the BJP not to push them to engineer defections from the BJP. The Congress alleged two of its legislators, including Anand Singh, were “missing”, but said the remaining 76 were with the party.
Friday was also JD(S) leader and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda’s 85th birthday. And, like in the past four years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Spoke to our former prime minister Shri HD Deve Gowda ji and conveyed birthday wishes to him. I pray for his good health and long life.”
This time, however, the PM’s tweet was different in that it pointedly stated that he spoke to Deve Gowda, which the JD(S) sources read as an attempt by Modi to sow seeds of doubt in the Opposition ranks.
The JD(S) sources asserted its flock of 37 newly-elected legislators, and lone legislator of ally Bahujan Samaj Party, was united. BSP chief Mayawati called up JD(S) leadership to take stock of the situation.
JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy has been speaking to all of his party’s legislators and also those of the Congress who have allegedly received threats of being under scanner of central probe agencies. In Congress, D K Shivakumar is shouldering the responsibility of keeping the lawmakers together.
On Thursday night, the Congress had taken its legislators to Hyderabad through buses. They would now be brought back to Bengaluru in time for the administration of oath.
Seeking a uniform rule for a Governor to follow in a hung assembly, the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar and the Congress in Goa and Manipur staked claim to form the government, citing the example of Karnataka.
Former chief minister Siddaramaiah said the BJP has 104 members, when they need 112 to reach the majority mark in the 222-member assembly. He said an independent and the lone member of KPJP, a Karnataka-based party, had supported the Congress-JD(S). With Congress’ 78, JD(S) and BSP’s 38, and independents, the number adds up to 118. As Kumaraswamy has won two seats, it stands at 117.
In the SC, while there was intense speculation on the list submitted by Yeddyurappa to the governor, the letter disclosed did not contain names of the supporting legislators but only an assurance that he has the support of the majority of members, which included names of BJP members and unnamed “others”.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, representing the chief minister, sought more time for the floor test from the SC Bench, which also consisted of judges S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan, saying the opposite group had “locked up” its members in a Kochi hotel and it would require at least 48 hours for gathering all members. The SC rejected the demand. It passed similar orders cutting short period for floor test in the cases of Goa and Meghalaya.
The SC’s order is of an interim nature and the main petitions are still kept pending before it. No date has been fixed for the next hearing and the court is going on a long recess from Saturday.
In the evening, the Congress elected former chief minister Siddaramaiah its legislature party leader. It also released an audio clip where BJP leader Janardhan Reddy was purportedly trying to woo a Congress lawmaker. The BJP termed the audio clip fake.