Home Politics With SC yet to decide on their fate, Karnataka’s rebel MLAs want...

With SC yet to decide on their fate, Karnataka’s rebel MLAs want bypolls to be delayed

The EC has announced bypolls in 15 Karnakata assembly seats. The rebel MLAs from these seats are awaiting a Supreme Court order on their disqualification.

Rohini Swamy
The Congress and JD(S) rebel MLAs have reached out to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa seeking assurances on their future. | ANI File Photo

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.

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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.

Also read: Amit Shah’s love for Hindi is definitely not going to help BJP win the south


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