Bengaluru: With the Election Commission (EC) announcing assembly bypolls in Karnataka Saturday, 15 MLAs who were disqualified in July for anti-party activities are set to petition the Supreme Court to delay the elections.
The EC said 15 assembly constituencies in Karnataka will vote along with other states on 21 October. The votes will be counted on 24 October and the last date for filing nominations is 30 September.
The 15 legislators — who had earlier moved the Supreme Court after they were disqualified by then Karnataka Speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar — could be left in the lurch if the apex court doesn’t come to their rescue by staying their disqualification.
The court is yet to pronounce its verdict in the case.
“We should be able to reach out to the EC before Monday to seek a delay in holding elections,” said a senior officer in Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s government who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The BJP — which wrested power from H.D. Kumaraswamy’s Congress-JD(S) alliance government two months back by allegedly inducing 18 rebel MLAs to dump the alliance — needs to win six seats in the bypolls.
At the moment, it has a wafer thin majority of 106 in the 208-seat assembly, two more than the 104-mark. The majority mark will touch 112 after the elections.
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
The options before rebel MLAs
Karnataka chief electoral officer Sanjiv Kumar told ThePrint that it is up to the Election Commission to decide on delaying the polls if a petition is filed by the MLAs.
“My role will be to forward their request to the EC, that’s all,” Kumar said.
Kumar said that the case of two other MLAs who were also disqualified — from the Maski and RR Nagar constituencies — is pending before the Karnataka High Court.
“In the two constituencies, Maski and Rajarajeshwari Nagar, there have been specific requests that the elections should be made void and this has been admitted in court. This is why elections are not being held in these two constituencies,” he explained to ThePrint.
Karnataka’s former advocate general Ashok Haranahalli said the only remedy for the 15 disqualified legislators is to request the Supreme Court to direct the EC to stay the elections until the issue is decided.
“The chances of the Election Commission postponing the elections are remote. As it stands today, there is no interim order from the SC. The EC will not defer an election because they have appealed. It is up to the SC to consider it and pass an order accordingly,” said Haranahalli.
On Thursday, the rebel MLAs faced a setback when Supreme Court Justice M.M. Shantanagoudar recused himself from the case as he belonged to Karnataka, saying his “conscience will not permit him”.
What BJP’s plans are
Sources in the Karnataka government say the disqualification case is likely to be heard Monday.
If the Supreme Court upholds the decision of former speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar in disqualifying the rebel MLAs, then it would come as a big blow to the BJP.
BJP sources, however, said they will also approach the court again seeking clarity on the disqualification and whether the MLAs can contest the polls.
“Given the fact that the case has not come up until now, there is a back-up plan in place where the rebel MLAs may put up family members or proxy members as candidates to hold their seat for them until such time the elections are held again,” said a source in the BJP who did wish to be identified.
The constituencies that will go to elections next month are Athani, Kagwad, Gokak, Yellapur, Hirekerur, Ranibennur, Vijayanagara, Chikkaballapur, K.R. Puram, Yeshvanthapura, Mahalakshmi Layout, Shivajinagar, Hosakote, Krishnarajpet and Hunsur.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.