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Karnataka governor declares ‘prima facie’ result and orders trust vote today

15 members met him and tendered their resignations and other attendant circumstances indicate the government has lost confidence, Vajubhai Vala wrote

By K.M. Rakesh in Bangalore
  • Published 19.07.19, 2:45 AM
  • Updated 19.07.19, 9:00 AM
  • 3 mins read
BJP state president and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa and his colleagues on the premises of the Karnataka Vidhana Soudha (Assembly) in Bangalore around 10pm. At least one person (extreme left) can be seen in pyjamas. “We will stay until the trust vote is decided,” Yeddyurappa said. Reporting by our special correspondent, picture by PTI

Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala has “prima facie” declared no-confidence in the H.D. Kumaraswamy government and asked the chief minister to prove his majority in the Assembly before 1.30pm on Friday.

“The fact that 15 members have met me and tendered their resignations and, coupled with 2 members, have withdrawn their support and other attendant circumstances do prima facie indicate that you have lost majority/confidence of the House,” governor Vala said in a letter to chief minister Kumaraswamy who heads the Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition government.

“Under these circumstances, I require you to prove your majority on the floor of the House on or before 1.30pm tomorrow (Friday),” the governor added in the letter to the chief minister.

The action by Vala, a former Gujarat Speaker and minister who traces his political and ideological roots to the BJP and the RSS, capped a day on which the governor tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Speaker to hold the trust vote on Thursday itself.

The ruling coalition appeared keen to delay the trust vote till clarity is obtained on a Supreme Court ruling that many feel shields 15 dissident MLAs from disqualification under the anti-defection law if they stay away from the Assembly. The court had said on Wednesday that the 15 MLAs “ought not to be compelled to participate in the proceedings of the ongoing session”.

The governor has stepped into the Karnataka minefield at a time grave misgivings have been cast on the role of multiple institutions and their perceived inability to uphold propriety and safeguard constitutional values.

The governor struck late in the evening on Thursday when attention was focused on an unfolding situation that saw BJP legislators spending the night in the Assembly and vowing to stay put till the trust vote is taken. At least one person was seen sitting in pyjamas, accompanied by others in more formal clothes, in the Assembly complex as the night wore on.

The governor is empowered to communicate with the Speaker. But it is highly unusual for a Raj Bhavan to seek to steer the course of the Assembly proceedings, the domain of the Speaker, and virtually pronounce the verdict on the majority of the government in the middle of a trust vote debate.

Besides, the wording of the letter suggests the governor has lent credence to the resignations of the dissident MLAs, a highly contentious issue.

The Supreme Court had on Wednesday refused to interfere with the powers of the Speaker on this issue and had upheld the supremacy of the Speaker in deciding the time frame to deal with the quit letters.

Speaker Ramesh Kumar has not yet taken a decision on the resignations. But that has not prevented the governor, who has conceded that the resignations are still before the Speaker, from saying in his letter that “15 members have met me and tendered their resignations”.

Earlier on Thursday, while the House proceedings were going on, the governor intervened and urged the Speaker to take up the vote by the end of the day.

Governor Vala sent a note through a Raj Bhavan official after a BJP delegation met him during a brief adjournment of the session and alleged that the Congress was trying to delay the trust vote and the Speaker was playing a partisan game.

Speaker Kumar, who received the note when he took a break to seek legal opinion from the advocate-general, read it out to the House.

“The motion of confidence moved by the chief minister of Karnataka is in consideration before the House today. The chief minister is expected to maintain the confidence of the House at all times, during his tenure. I, therefore, send this message to consider completing the process by the end of the day. This, according to me, will uphold the highest traditions of democracy and parliamentary practice,” read the governor’s note.

The Congress members described the governor’s note as an “interference” in the proceedings of the House and raised objections.

Suresh Kumar of the BJP justified the governor’s note and said it was fully permissible under Article 175 (2).

The article reads: “The governor may send messages to the House or Houses of the legislature of the state, whether with respect to a Bill then pending in the legislature or otherwise, and a House to which any message is so sent shall with all convenient despatch consider any matter required by the message to be taken into consideration.”

The Speaker eventually adjourned the House till 11am on Friday.