Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy faces a vote of confidence in the assembly Thursday, with the fate of his JD(S)-Congress government still not secure. In this scenario, where every vote could be crucial, one person who can tilt the balance is Vinisha Nero, the nominated Anglo-Indian legislator.
Nero served a full term under former CM Siddaramaiah from 2013-18, and when the JD(S)-Congress coalition was formed, Kumaraswamy suggested her name to Governor Vajubhai Vala.
Nominated legislators get all the privileges of those elected to the assembly except two — they are not allowed to vote in elections for the President of India, and in Rajya Sabha elections.
‘A vote for democracy’
Nero says she’s extremely saddened by the political tug-of-war in Karnataka, and is upset that the Kumaraswamy government had not been allowed to function for the last 15 months, what with the constant efforts by the opposition to pull it down and by the ruling parties to save the fragile coalition.
“The vote of confidence will also be a vote for trust in our democracy,” she said.
She says the other MLAs’ shifting allegiances set a bad precedent and directly affect the integrity of the house.
“Those MLAs should realise that they should have their hearts in the right place. We work in the temple of democracy. If you stand in support of a person or a party, do so at all costs, or don’t support them at all. Double standards are not acceptable, and not good for the country,” Nero said.
A reluctant politician
Before becoming a nominated MLA, Nero had spent more than three decades in the corporate world with companies such as Cisco and Microsoft.
“I entered politics by chance,” she recalls. “I was part of a delegation of Anglo-Indians who went to the then-CM S.M. Krishna to get a few papers signed to help the community. He suddenly asked me what I did and suggested that the Congress was looking for an Anglo Indian representative and asked if I would be interested. I politely declined.
“But then, in 2013, Neil O’Brien, the then-president of the All-India Anglo-Indian Association, said I was being nominated as MLA.”
Nero says a few important turns in her life led her to politics, including the inspiration she drew from her son, who suffered from a hearing impairment. She wanted to work for better facilities for the physically-challenged, and this made her let go of her initial resistance to politics.
She says she has been an active worker in her community and has emphasised and spoken on budget issues, and for the last three years, has also been urging the government to create facilities such as a university or a skill development facility unit for children with disabilities instead of giving concessions.
This is not the first time an Anglo Indian member’s role has become crucial ahead of a confidence vote. In 2005, Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand government nominated Alfred George De Rozario to the 81-member assembly just before the trust vote, in order to boost the coalition’s chances. However, senior BJP leader Arjun Munda moved the Supreme Court, which then directed the governor not to accept the nomination. Soren lost the trust vote, paving the way for Munda to become CM for the second time.
In 2012, when elections in Uttarakhand delivered a hung assembly, Vijay Bahuguna’s Congress government nominated R.V. Gardner just before the trust vote. This helped Bahuguna prove his majority on the floor of the house.
However, the Anglo-Indian community has also preferred to remain apolitical at crucial times, such as when BJP leader B.S. Yeddyurappa faced a floor test after the 2018 assembly polls. Sources in the All-India Anglo-Indian Association said there were several attempts to lure some of its members into the assembly, but the community urged Governor Vala to follow the Supreme Court’s direction that no MLA be nominated before a stable government was formed, even though nominating Anglo-Indian members is mandatory under Article 33 of the Constitution.
Barry O’Brien, president of the association, wrote: “We implore you to protect our constitutional rights by not allowing any political party or group to use this nomination to seek political advantage for its own benefit or gain… We urge you, sir, to nominate a person from our community only after the political process of installing a government is completed after the floor test.”
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