The Supreme Court verdict on the disqualified MLAs did not address important Constitutional issues
Fifteen MLAs of the Karnataka assembly have achieved their goal of contesting the by-elections on December 05 with the Supreme Court upholding their disqualification.
The MLAs had gone to the Supreme Court questioning the action of the then Speaker Ramesh Kumar for not accepting their resignations but instead disqualifying them for violating party whips issued by the Congress and Janata Dal Secular.
“They are happy. Their resignation was not accepted but their disqualification was and they have been permitted to contest the by-elections. That's what they wanted,” said one of the advocates representing some of them.
But the larger question that Speaker Ramesh Kumar had raised did not find an answer in the judgement of the three member bench.
For whatever reason, mistake or otherwise, the then elected representatives made themselves eligible to be disqualified. “I did not find an answer as to what is the punishment for this,” Ramesh Kumar, former Speaker, said.
Then Speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified the members from contesting an election until the next assembly election which is scheduled for 2023.
Not just this. Everybody knows that the anti-defection law as contained in the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution has been violated or subverted. This is not only in Karnataka but other states as well.
Karnataka's innovative contribution to this subversion has been Operation Kamala. Since 2008, Karnataka has gone through four stages. Lure the MLAs with ministerial berths or money, get them to resign and they get elected as BJP candidates.
The latest episode is 4.0. But the apex court did not deem it fit to address this constant badgering of the anti-defection law. It did not even address the issue of setting a time limit for the Speaker to accept the resignation of the MLA, one of the core issues raised in the petitions.
“At least such matters could have been referred to a larger bench as it is a Constitutional issue,” BL Shankar, a former chairman of the legislative council and Congress leader said.
Even a lawyer representing some of the disqualified MLAs agreed that the Constitutional questions could have been either addressed or referred to a Constitutional bench.
In short, it means that the political class can act with impunity in subverting the mandate of the people with the facade of the so-called anti-defection law.
Politically, the former MLAs will formally join the BJP and for the sacrifice that they have committed, they will be given party nomination to contest the by-elections.
As chief minister BS Yediyurappa was quoted in the secretly recorded observations of the closed door meeting in Hubballi, sometime ago - but for their “sacrifice”, the BJP would not have been able to form the government.
But their path is not as easy as it seems. The challenge to Yediyurappa comes from within the party fold. Those candidates who had failed to defeat the Congress and JDS candidates are upset at the defectors being given party nomination.
Some of these candidates are not pushovers and in, at least, five to six constituencies, the BJP faces a tough task. Despite Yediyurappa's insistence, the possibility of some disqualified MLAs being denied nomination cannot be entirely ruled out. Reason: winnability criteria.
For Yediyurappa, winning a minimum of eight seats is the prerequisite to remain in power. The BJP currently has 105 members plus the support of a lone independent member. It would need to win six seats to gain a simple majority in the house of 224.
Nobody is taking any bets yet.