SEEMA MUSTAFA | 18 MAY, 2018
Floor Test 4pm Saturday
NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: The Supreme Court has ordered the floor test for the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday 4pm. It has agreed that a pro-tem Speaker will conduct the test. It has stopped BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa from taking any decisions till then. And above all it has agreed to hear the larger issue of whether a Governor can overrule procedure and the law and call upon the single largest party to form a government when the others in the fray have the submitted letters spelling majority.
The apex court stood on the side of justice as it really had no option to do otherwise, faced with a blatant effort by the BJP to muzzle democracy and form the government in Karnataka by hook or by crook. The midnight knock at the Supreme Court door a day ago worked with the 3 Judge Bench led by Justice A.K.Sikri that heard Congress arguments through the night asking the Governor, an old BJP hand, to submit the letter from Yeddyurappa on the basis of which he had agreed to swear him in. And given 15 full days to prove his majority.
The letter before the Supreme Court this morning made it very clear that one, the BJP had given no details of how it planned to tot up the 104 MLAs that it has to the 113 required to form the government. And two Yeddyurappa was also unable to cite a single point that could indicate that some such support would be the BJP’’s. Clearly the Governor had gone along with a letter that had little to offer, despite being given letters fand sworn affidavits from the Congress and JD-S with a clear majority of 116 MLAs. And chose to ignore the majority claimed thereby with evidence.
As Congress lawyer Abhishek Singhvi who is leading the party arguments in the Court told reporters after the SC ruling “Yeddyurappa’s letter did not show what right they had to speak for the majority of legislators, and had no basis for making the claim to form the government.” As he said it is a historic interim ruling by the Supreme Court, arrived in at record time.
The fight back by the Congress and the JD(S), systematic and aggressive that clearly the BJP had not factored into its scheme of things, has swung the developments on the side of justice. As both the parties have been pointing out, in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya the BJP applied one rule of the coalition strength through the Governors while in Karnataka it decided to pitch for government as the single largest party.
The BJP effort, according to the top leaders of both parties, has been to break the legislators through the lure of money and fear. HD Kumaraswamy has said that the BJP is looking to threaten the legislators with Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax files. One Congress MLA Anand Singh seems to have succumbed, having had an IT case against him earlier. He is also said to be close to the Reddy brothers who are now with the BJP. Congress leaders publicly said that Singh was in touch with the party and would return to the fold for the floor test. They said they were in close touch with him.
As a result of this fear of brazen poaching by the BJP both parties have been shepherding their MLAs, first to a resort in Bangalore and now by bus to another place in Kochi Kerala. The court decision has come shortly after the legislators reached Kochi after overnight travel, and will now soon be undertaking the journey back to Bengaluru for the floor test tomorrow.
As per the procedure the Assembly will be convened tomorrow. All the legislators will be sworn in before 4 pm, the time designated by the apex court for the floor test. The BJP’s first reaction to the court decision was , “we will win the floor test, we have 120 MLAs.” How? Asked the Congress and the JD-S scoffing at the claim with the support of 116 legislators so far visible and intact. BJP president Amit Shah’s formidable skills in breaking political parties and luring legislators have become legendary in these four years of power.
Singhvi was particularly happy that the court had accepted his plea for a full hearing on the larger issue of the Governor's authority to pick and choose the political party to form a government, despite the evidence and proof of full majority by the ‘others’. As Singhvi said, in this case Yeddyurappa’s letter which became the basis of Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to give the BJP 15 days to prove its majority had not even a hint of support from over the 104 MLAs elected on the BJP ticket. Then how? And why were the letters from the JD-S and Congress ignored? The larger constitutional question arising from this will be heard by the apex court ten weeks hence.
For now there is cautious jubilation in the Congress and JD-S entrusted with the task of keeping their legislators secure from the temptation of money or fear of cases. This is not as tall an order as it seems now as most of them have given sworn affidavits of support to a Congress-JD(S) government in the state and it will be difficult for them to vote for the BJP without attracting the provisions of the anti-defection law that kicks in as soon as they take the oath tomorrow. This is before the vote of confidence scheduled at 4pm.