Karnataka row: Congress moves Supreme Court over pro-tem Speaker appointment

Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala administers the oath of office to pro-tem Speaker K.G. Bopaiah in Bengaluru on May 18, 2018. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that a floor test be conducted in the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday at 4 p.m. for BJP's B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was sworn in on Thursday as Chief Minister, to prove his majority.

Mr. Yeddyurappa cannot take any major decision before the floor test, the court said. The pro-tem Speaker will take decisions in accordance with the law on the floor test.

The court also said no Anglo-Indian MLA can be nominated to the Assembly.

The court was hearing a petition filed by the post poll Congress-JD(S) combine against the decision of Governor Vajubhai Vala to invite the BJP to form a government and to nominate an Anglo-Indian member to the Assembly.

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Here are the updates:

9.30 p.m.

 

Siddaramaiah elected CLP leader

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party at a meeting of party MLAs held in Hyderabad.

“Karnataka Congress Legislature Party met in Hyderabad and unanimously elected Shri @siddaramaiah as the leader of the CLP as per the directions of Congress President Shri @RahulGandhi,” Karnataka Pradesh Congress said in a tweet.

The newly elected Congress and JD(S) MLAs are camping at a hotel in Hyderabad, fearing alleged poaching attempt by the BJP.

Mr. Siddaramaiah’s election as the CLP leader comes ahead of Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa seeking trust vote on the floor of the assembly on Saturday.

8.25 p.m.

Congress-JD (S) approach Supreme Court over pro-tem Speaker appointment 

The Congress-JD (S) combine has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Karnataka Governor’s decision to appoint Mr. Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker.

According to sources, the petition was placed before a registrar of the apex court but some defects were pointed out in the plea. “Some defects have been pointed out to us and we are curing those defects,” one of lawyers, associated with the development, said.

He said they have questioned the Governor’s decision, as Mr. Bopaiah was not the senior-most legislator and the Governor should not have appointed him as the pro-tem (temporary) Speaker.

Pro-tem is a Latin phrase which best translates to for the time being or temporary. Usually, the senior most member is selected for this post.

 

6.50 p.m.

 

Congress releases audio of alleged conversation between Janardhan Reddy and its MLA

Congress leaders released an audio recording of an alleged telephonic conversation between mining baron G. Janardhan Reddy of the BJP and Raichur Rural Congress MLA Basanagouda Daddala.

In the audio clip, Mr. Reddy allegedly tells the MLA that he will take the legislator directly to the BJP's national president, and promises that the “MLA would earn a hundred times what he lost”. A voice, purportedly of the MLA, is heard rejecting the 'offer', saying the Congress had given him ticket and made him MLA when he was defeated multiple times.

Congress MLC V.S. Ugrappa, who released the audio, says that it clearly proves how the BJP is resorting to dirty tricks to woo Congress and JD(S) MLAs to engineer defection and how 'Mr. Reddy', whom BJP national president Amit Shah had distanced himself from, is heard trying to fix an appointment with him.

Mr. Daddala, also from the same Nayak community as that of Janardhan Reddy's close friend and senior BJP leader B. Sriramulu, contested from the Raichur Rural constituency in 2008 on the BJP ticket, and again from Manvi on the ticket of Mr. Sriramulu's BSR Congress in 2013. He lost both times. He then switched to the Congress.

 

6.05 p.m.

Siddaramaiah holds strategy meeting with party MLAs

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah holds a crucial meeting with Congress MLAs to discuss the strategy to be adopted in the Assembly on Saturday when the BJP government seeks a trust vote.

The Congress leader flew in to Hyderabad hours after the MLAs of the Congress and the JD(S) were shifted by their respective parties ''to prevent them from 'poaching by the BJP'' ahead of the floor test.

Mr. Siddaramaiah drove to hotel Taj Krishna and began consultations with the party leaders in the wake of the Supreme Court judgment directing a floor test.

According to Congress sources, the senior leader is giving directions to the MLAs to ensure coordination to defeat the trust vote. The meeting was attended by all 76 MLAs of the party.

5.55 p.m.

 

Congress MLA being kept in captivity by BJP: Siddaramaiah

The alleges that the BJP has “abducted” and “kept in wrongful confinement” Karnataka Congress MLA Anand Singh by using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax (I-T) Department against him.

Speaking to reporters after participating in a demonstration by his party against the Governor, Mr. Siddaramaiah says all the 78 legislators of the party and two Independent MLAs were with them.

However, he alleges that Mr. Singh had been “abducted“.

“[Congress MLA] Anand Singh is abducted and kept in wrongful confinement by the BJP people using the ED and the I-T Department. This is what the BJP people are doing... Shamelessly doing. [BJP president] Amit Shah did the same kind of manipulation in all the States. They don’t know the Constitution and the law. They don’t know anything other than false propaganda,” he says.

5.30 p.m.

Congress to move SC against appointment of Bopaiah as pro-tem Speaker

The Congress says it's going to the Supreme Court to challenge the appointment of BJP MLA K.G. Bopaiah as Karnataka pro-tem Speaker. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala says the Congress is against the appointment as Mr. Bopaiah was “dented and tainted” and he got stinging strictures from the Supreme Court in 2011 for his actions during his term as Speaker between 2009 and 2013.

 

4.50 p.m.

 

Congress, JD(S) object to Bopaiah’s appointment

The Congress and the JD(S) have taken serious objection to the appointment of Mr. Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker. KPCC working president Dinesh Gundu Rao tweeted: “Shocking decision by the Hon'ble Governor. Constitutional convention says the senior most, in this case R.V. Deshpande should have been named. Also Supreme Court has passed strictures against the conduct of K G Bopaiah as Speaker. Sad to see Vajubhai Valaji behaving like an agent of BJP.”

The JD(S) camp cites credibility issues over what Mr. Bopaiah has done in the past and terms him a “puppet of Modi”.

The BJP was quick to hit back. Union Minister and the party’s Karnataka election in charge Prakash Javdekar tweets: “K G Bopaiah was appointed as Pro Tem speaker even in 2008 by the then Governor. That time Bopaiah was 10 years younger than what he is today. The Congress is thus raising hoax objection. The appointment of Bopaiahji is as per rules and regulations”.

3.50 p.m.

Vala appoints Bopaiah as pro-tem Speaker

Mr. Vala appoints Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker. He will conduct the floor test on Saturday at 4 p.m., as mandated by the Supreme Court.

Mr. Bopaiah was elected to the Assembly in the 2018 elections from the Virajpet constituency.

Karnataka Governor’s Vajubhai Vala’s order appointing K.G. Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker on May 18, 2018. Photo: Special Arrangement

Karnataka Governor’s Vajubhai Vala’s order appointing K.G. Bopaiah as the pro-tem Speaker on May 18, 2018. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Mr. Bopaiah is an RSS worker and a four-time MLA from the BJP. He was the Speaker of the Assembly from 2009 to 2013 and had a very controversial term. Even the Supreme Court had made strong observations on the floor test he conducted in October 2010.

In October 2010, when then Chief Minister Yeddyurappa faced a trust vote, Speaker Bopaiah, disqualified five independent MLAs and 11 BJP ones, for rebelling against the Chief Minister. The trust vote was also chaotic and his choice of voice vote had come under huge criticism. While the Speaker’s decision on disqualification of MLAs was upheld by the Karnataka High Court in February 2011, the Supreme Court later quashed the disqualification of MLAs, making strong observations against the Speaker that he acted in “hot haste” and the proceedings he conducted on the disqualification application filed by Mr. Yeddyurappa did not meet the twin tests of natural justice and fair play.

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3.15 p.m.

When Justice Sikri lightened a high-voltage hearing

The tense, high-voltage hearing on the Karnataka crisis in the Supreme Court on Friday witnesses lighter moments when a judge quotes a social media joke that the owner of a resort where the Congress-JD(S) legislators are holed up has also staked his claim to form a government saying he has 117 MLAs.

“On a lighter vein, I must say that I saw a message circulated on the social media in which a resort owner wrote a letter to the Governor for formation of government saying he has the support of 117 MLAs,” Justice A.K. Sikri says.

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2.45 p.m.

Now, NPP to stake claim to form govt. in Nagaland

Former Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang says the Naga People’s Front, a former BJP ally, will stake its claim to form a government in the State. “Why should different laws be applied in different States on same matter?” The BJP went with new party NDPP to form the government in Nagaland.

1: 40 p.m

Yeddyurappa to recommend to Governor convening of House at 11 a.m.

At an emergency Cabinet meeting, Mr. Yeddyurappa decides to recommend to the Governor the convening of the Assembly at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Among others present at the meeting is Legislative Assembly Secretary N Murthy.

Karnataka row: Congress moves Supreme Court over pro-tem Speaker appointment
 

The government also recommends to the office of the Governor names for the pro-tem Speaker post. Sources say eight-time MLA R.V. Deshpande of the Congress, seven-time MLA Umesh Katti of the BJP and six-time MLA Vishweshwar Kageri of the BJP are the names proposed. The pro-tem Speaker will be announced by Mr. Vala later.

The first session of the Assembly on Saturday will include oath-taking by MLAs. Both the BJP and post poll Congress-JD(S) combine are expected to press for election to the post of Speaker soon after oath-taking and before the floor test. The Speaker's election is expected to show the mutual strength, the sources said.

 

1.30 p.m.

The Karnataka impact in Goa, Bihar

Meanwhile, in Goa, Congress MLAs led by legislature party leader Chandrakant Kavlekar meet Governor Mridula Sinha in Raj Bhavan, reports Prakash Kamat. They submit a letter, urging him to invite them to form government, as the they are the largest party with 16 MLAs.

In Bihar, Amarnath Tewary reports, Tejaswi Yadav, along with the RJD, Congress, HAM(S) and CPI-ML MLAs goes to Raj Bhavan and meets Governor Satya Pal Malik to stake their claim to form government in the State as they are the single largest party.

Mr. Yadav, who went the Governor along with three MLAs, says Mr. Malik heard them seriously. "We've submitted the support of 111 MLAs of the single largest party and block. The Governor said he would think over it and let us know about his decision," says Mr. Yadav. "If we get invited I would like to say we'll pass the floor test comfortably. A lot of JD(U) MLAs are in touch with me...we'd easily get the magic figure of 122 MLAs to form  government," he says. "We welcome the Supreme Court order. Now BJP has been exposed in the country," he adds.

Last year, in the Goa Assembly polls, the BJP came second with 13 seats, while the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 17 seats. However, with some swift political manoeuvring, the BJP struck a post-poll alliance to form the government.

In the 2015 Assembly elections in Bihar, the RJD was in a grand alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United and the Congress. Though the RJD had 80 MLAs, nine more than Mr. Kumar’s party, it gave the Chief Minister’s position to the JD(U) as part of a pre-poll understanding. However, Mr. Kumar switched sides last July and formed the government with the help of the BJP’s 53 MLAs.

1: 15 p.m.

 

Governor acted as per Modi, Shah's directions: Siddaramaiah

Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah says the Governor's conduct indicates that his decision is as per directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. "Giving 15 days to prove majority is unprecedented in the history of independent India," he says. "It shows his collusion with the BJP."

 

12: 50 p.m.

 

Who is the pro-tem Speaker?

The floor test will be conducted by the pro-tem Speaker.

The pro-tem Speaker performs the duties of the office of the Speaker from the commencement of the sitting of the Assembly till the election of a Speaker.

The pro-tem Speaker will be the senior-most MLA, that is, the one with the most number of terms as a member of the House. If there is a tie, the one with the earliest tenure will be chosen.

No official announcement has been made yet on who the pro-tem Speaker is.

12: 30 p.m.

Our stand vindicated: Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi says, "The Supreme Court’s order on Karnataka floor test vindicates our stand that Governor acted unconstitutionally."

12: 15 p.m.

Confident of proving majority, says Yeddyurappa

Mr. Yeddyurappa says he is confident of proving his majority in the Assembly.

BJP's Shobha Karandlaje says, "The party will abide by the Supreme Court order and "we are confident of winning the floor test tomorrow." She adds that many of the MLAs who do not want the JD(S)-Congress combination are in touch with them.

12 noon

SC has given a historic verdict: Abhishek Manu Singhvi

Soon after the apex court order, Mr. Singhvi told journalists outside the court, "It is a historic verdict. Many important directions have been given, one of them being that floor test has to be conducted at 4 p.m. tomorrow under a pro-tem speaker."

11: 40 a.m.

Supreme Court orders floor test

The Supreme Court orders  that a floor test be conducted tomorrow (Saturday) at 4 p.m in the Karnataka Assembly.

It says all MLAs will vote tomorrow. Pro-tem Speaker will decide what manner the floor test should be held.

Mr. Yeddyurappa should not take any major policy decisions in the meantimes, says the court.

11: 35 a.m.

 

Rohatgi opposes immediate floor test

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who is appearing for Mr. Yeddyurappa, says:

 "I am disputing the signatures of Congress members. A floor test will show how many signatures they really had. The Governor never received a signed letter.

"I dont think floor test should be held tomorrow. Pro-tem speaker has to be appointed, etc. People should be given a reasonable time. Not tomorrow. Not fair. I have to also get my flock. Their people are locked up, not mine."

11: 30 a.m.

Immediate floor test required, says Kapil Sibal

"There is no such thing as Governor's discretion. That discretion is circumscribed by constitutional dictum and law," says Kapil Sibal.

"Immediate floor test, My Lords," he says.

11: 20 a.m.

Floor test an inevitability, says Singhvi

Mr. Singhvi states that conducting a floor test is an "inevitability."

He says:

"But B.S. Yeddyurappa declares he is the single largest party in his May 15 letter to Governor even before EC declares the election.

"B.S. Yeddyurappa says 'I with an unknown X' which he does not name 'will form a majority.' He had to say 'I with A,B,C have crossed majority mark.

''Congress-JDS specified 117 with all details. Can you say the Governor applied his mind by giving B. S. Yeddyurappa the opportunity to form a government?

''Yeddyurappa tells the Governor, 'give me some time. I have 104. Give me a small window, with that I will 'manufacture' a majority'.''

Abhishek Manu Singhvi says he agrees to the floor test tomorrow.

 

11: a.m.

 

Floor test on Saturday an option, observes SC

Justice Sikri says, " Ultimately this is a number game."

He adds: "An alternative is floor test and tomorrow itself. We don't give time for anybody.

"The issue has to be decided. Let us have the floor test and issue on question of law will be decided later here."

 

10: 45 a.m.

 

Congress-JD(S) an unholy alliance: Mukul Rohatgi

Hearing in Supreme Court begins on a  petition was filed by the Congress and the JD(S) against the decision of the Governor to invite the BJP to form a government.

Mr. Mukul Rohatgi reads out the May 15 letter saying since there is no pre-poll alliance and as single largest party, the BJP can form a govt.

"The Congress-JD(S) is an unholy alliance. The Sarkaria Commission is only guidelines. Finally it is the Governor's discretion to form a stable and popular government. We are the single largest party with additional support."

10:30 a.m.

Advance date for floor test?

What could possibly happen today?

Supreme Court of India. File

Supreme Court of India. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

 

The court wants to check whether Mr. Yedyurappa gave sufficient material to the Governor for the latter to have reasonably felt that the BJP leader is the best option and not the post poll Congress-JD(S) combine.

One of the possibilities is that the court would advance the date for a floor test and leave the party with the most number of members to form a government. The BJP has 104 members while the Congress and the JD(S) jointly have 117 members, which is well past the majority mark.

 

10 a.m.

 

Congress MLAs housed at Park Hyatt in Hyderabad

Congress MLAs are currently being housed at Park Hyatt in Hyderabad.

Congress MLAs are currently being housed at Park Hyatt in Hyderabad.  

 

The Congress, with fears about poaching by the BJP, on Friday brought its  Karnataka MLAs to Hyderabad.

Sources said they were being accommodated in two five star hotels - Taj Krishna and Park Hyatt - which are owned by a senior Congress leader.

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9:30 a.m.

Where are the MLAs?

Meanwhile, suspense continues regarding the whereabouts of the Congress and JD(S) MLAs.

Party national Secretary General Kunwar Danish Ali confirmed to The Hindu that all 37 MLA elects would travel by road to Kochi on Thursday night itself.

But conflicting reports say they left Kochi and are currently at Hyderabad.

 

 

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