Karnataka: Disqualified MLAs May Fall Back On Plan B
Disqualified MLAs from Karnataka appear well prepared to put their “Plan B” into operation if the Supreme Court does not stop the by-elections to the 15 assembly constituencies as decided by the Election Commission (EC).
The 15 disqualified legislators were hoping that the Supreme Court will take an early decision on their petition seeking quashing of the order of the then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar on the ground that their disqualification was arbitrary.
But the decision of the EC to hold by-elections to the 15 constituencies has put them in a peculiar situation. They were disqualified because as members of the Congress and the Janata Dal Secular they had defied the party whip and not attended the assembly session.
In addition, they also decided to resign from the membership of the assembly as part of Operation Kamala, a euphemism for MLAs to contest as BJP candidates in by-elections. Their resignations were able to bring down the Janata Dal Secular-Congress coalition government. But they are unable to enjoy the fruits of their decision in the BJP government. This is despite chief minister BS Yediyurappa keeping 14 seats vacant in the cabinet for them to occupy along with prime portfolios.
“If the Supreme court does not hear their petition against Ramesh Kumar’s decision to disqualify them, they will put into operation their Plan B which is that they will ask their trusted lieutenants or close family members to contest the by-election,” a BJP functionary said on condition of anonymity.
The decision to have a Plan B came about as skepticism grew when their petition did not come up before the bench of the Supreme Court for quite some time. When it did come up for hearing last week, one of the judges who originally hails from Karnataka recused himself forcing the postponement of the hearing in the case to the coming week.
“Since they were quite skeptical about any decision forthcoming from the Supreme Court, they had decided to put their Plan B into operation if all their efforts at getting a legal remedy to their plight failed,” said another BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
But senior advocates point out two different decisions that the Supreme Court could take early next week.
One is that the “correctness of the order of the Speaker is yet to be examined by the Supreme Court. Given this fact, it is possible for the legislators to request the Supreme Court to pass an interim order asking the EC to hold elections only after it decides the disqualification issue,” said Ashok Harnahally, a former advocate general of Karnataka.
The second opinion is that of another former advocate general Ravi Varma Kumar who quotes from Article 329 (B) to say that it imposes “total ban on any court entertaining any case once the notification of the Election Commission has been issued.”
Meanwhile, the disqualified MLAs are also seeking to appeal to the EC to not hold elections unless the Supreme Court takes a decision on their petition. The harried lot rushed to hold a meeting with chief minister Yediyurappa soon after the EC announced the dates for the by-elections. They were assured that they would not be let down.
“There is no doubt that they are an extremely worried lot. Ultimately, it is a question of not just enjoying power. It is a question of holding power and also be seen to be exercising it. That is what gives the thrill to some of them,” as one BJP leader put it.
As it is, the disqualified legislators were already seeing dreams of becoming ministers with one of them (Ramesh Jarkiholi) even becoming the fourth deputy chief minister in the Yediyurappa ministry.
Clearly, tension levels among the disqualified legislators would be running high until the Supreme Court decides on their immediate future. But the spotlight is also falling on the Janata Dal Secular-Congress alliance. It is crystal clear that their electoral alliance in the Lok Sabha elections did not work because the bitterness of four decades of electoral battles was carried forward even though the two parties ran a coalition government.
The JDS leader and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda has already indicated that he would be consulting his party leaders before deciding whether to contest these by-elections separately.