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The legal & constitutional provisions that will determine what happens next in Karnataka

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The BJP has won 104 seats and still needs eight more MLAs to cross the halfway mark. There are various scenarios being discussed on how this will play out.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s refusal to stay B.S. Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in as chief minister of Karnataka has triggered fears of the BJP ‘poaching’ MLAs from the Congress and the JD(S).

Experts have cautioned against a repeat of the 2008 ‘Operation Kamala’, the BJP’s plan to poach opposition MLAs while circumventing the anti-defection laws, in order to hit the elusive majority figure.

The BJP has won 104 seats and still needs eight more MLAs to cross the halfway mark. There are various scenarios being discussed on how this will play out.

Scenario 1 – A few Congress or JD(S) MLAs can defect to the BJP

In the floor test, every party’s MLA will have to vote as per the party whip. Failing to do so will disqualify the MLA under the Tenth Schedule, or the anti-defection law.

However, the disqualified MLA can then contest a bye-election on another party’s ticket and get elected again.

In 2008, seven MLAs from the Congress had defected to the BJP in this manner under Operation Kamala.

Congress legislator B.S. Anand Singh allegedly not showing up at the legislative party meeting has triggered speculation that he might have defected to the BJP. In reality, for that to happen, Singh would have to be first be sworn in as an MLA and then resign from his party or cross-vote and be disqualified for defying the party’s whip.

The seat doesn’t automatically get transferred from the Congress to the BJP. There will have to be a bye-election, and only if the BJP candidate wins would it boost its tally.

Scenario 2 – Independent MLAs can support the BJP

One independent candidate who has won from Mulbagal has already pledged his support for the Congress. The party had also supported him, since its own candidate was barred by the Karnataka High Court from contesting.

An independent candidate can offer ‘outside support’ to the party forming the government without attracting anti-defection laws. But if the candidate were to officially join the party, then he would be disqualified by the Speaker under the 10th Schedule.

The other ‘free agent’ MLA is R. Shankar from the Karnataka Pragnyavanta Janata Paksha (KPJP), who won the Ranebennur seat. The KPJP can also pledge support to a BJP-led government without attracting anti-defection laws.

Scenario 3 – If a few JD(S) or Congress MLAs abstain from voting, BJP can win the floor test

The third scenario is practically impossible. A composite floor test is used to prove majority in the house. Votes of all elected legislators will be considered and not just of those present in the house and voting, unlike in a no-confidence motion.

A floor test is when a party/leader is required to prove numbers to form the government in the first place, or to reinstate his/her government. A floor test is ordered by the governor to satisfy himself/herself that the party has the requisite numbers to form the government.

A no-confidence motion takes places when there is a government already in place and the leader of the party has to prove his majority on the floor of the house. It is also moved by the opposition, and not by the treasury benches.

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