Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy with his cabinet colleagues arrives to attend the Assembly Session, at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru | Photo: Shailendra Bhojak | PTI
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Bengaluru: The H.D. Kumaraswamy-headed JD(S)-Congress coalition government in Karnataka may breathe a sigh of relief with the Supreme Court asking Speaker Ramesh Kumar not to take any decision on the disqualification of MLAs. But this also means that all three parties, the Congress, JD(S) and the BJP have once again begun ‘resort politics’ to ensure that they keep their flocks together, and lure back rebels who may be ready to return.

At the end of a dramatic first day of the 10-day monsoon session of the assembly, legislators of the three parties were transported to different resorts for safe-keeping until the session resumes Monday. This indicates that none of the parties trust their legislators, and the threat of some of them crossing over still looms.

The Kumaraswamy government is surviving on one technical detail — the decision of the speaker on the resignations of the 16 MLAs. The strength of the coalition as of Friday is 116, but if the resignations are accepted, it will come down to 100, while the BJP’s tally will be 105 plus the support of two independents, bringing it to 107.

Now, battle lines are drawn in preparation for a vote of confidence that Kumaraswamy plans to seek on the floor of the house.

Kumaraswamy said on the floor of the assembly Friday: “Today, there are many things happening in our state’s politics because of the decisions of many MLAs, which has created a difficult situation. I am not here to sit in power. I appeal to you that in light of the developments, I want to move a trust motion.”

Also read: What an Indian law can do to MLAs defecting in Karnataka & Goa – nothing

First-mover’s advantage

The trust motion has given Kumaraswamy the first-mover’s advantage, as the BJP was hopeful of seeking a no-trust motion against the coalition and bringing down the teetering government.

The speaker also said he had taken note of the CM’s request to move a trust motion. “I have told the CM to tell me a day before he plans to move the motion. I will include the trust motion the next day. I am guessing he’ll seek the trust vote soon. I cannot tell him when to go about it,” Ramesh Kumar told the media in Bengaluru.

Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa expressed confidence about a floor test victory for the alliance. “Come hell or high water, we will win this trust vote. This is a setback for the BJP, who wanted our government to crumble on the first day of the assembly. Too bad its wish wasn’t fulfilled.”

But the BJP still believes it can lure a few more MLAs, and till the resignations of the rebel MLAs are accepted, it will have to trust these defectors to back it.

JD(S) leader Tanveer Ahmed told ThePrint that the MLAs who were looking to resign must consider their decisions carefully. “A resignation is not a piece of paper in politics, there is a certain procedure under which it can operate. If accepted, the legislators will regret it for the rest for their lives. It is important the MLAs understand this before making this big move,” he said.

“The speaker has a major role to play in this. We will wait and see what decision he will take with the resignations and disqualifications of the MLAs.”

Possible alternatives

Sources in the JD(S) said there were a lot of countermoves being made within the party. A meeting between JD(S)’s Sa Ra Mahesh, the state’s tourism minister, with BJP Karnataka-in-charge Muralidhar Rao and senior MLA K.S. Eshwarappa set tongues wagging about a possible JD(S)-BJP alliance.

Though Kumaraswamy was quick to issue a clarification, some in the party say it was a clear message to Congress to rein in leaders like Siddaramaiah, G. Parameshwara and D.K. Shivakumar.

“There was a suggestion of a change of guard as chief minister, as long as Siddaramaiah is not the choice. (Kumaraswamy’s older brother) Revanna wants to become deputy CM, and the party is ready to support any other candidate to save the coalition. But the important thing is that Siddaramaiah should be asked to convince his supporters Munirathna, S.T. Somasekhar, Byrathi Basavaraj to return to the party,” said a JD(S) leader on the condition of anonymity.

Also read: Karnataka political crisis creates history: Resignations rejected due to wrong format

President’s Rule?

Senior BJP leaders also said it’s possible that the governor recommends to the Centre to place Karnataka under President’s Rule, on the grounds that no party has a majority to provide stability. However, this may be unlikely, with the Supreme Court also making it clear that the governor should try and pursue every possible combination and permutation to ensure an elected government is in power, before opting for President’s Rule.

Bengaluru-based political scientist Sandeep Shastri believes the status quo will not help the Congress or the JD(S) at this point of time.

“Though it may have given a little more time to the coalition, I don’t see the situation helping Kumaraswamy’s government. The BJP will also think twice before forming a government with such defectors,” Shastri said.

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