The Karnataka assembly has been witnessing seemingly heavy turbulence with members of the ruling Congress-JD(S) coalition ‘disappearing’ before the session.
In a recent development, the Congress has called for a Legislative Party meeting, summoning all MLAs on February 8 at 9 am.
A Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting was called earlier too on January 18 this year where four defiant MLAs didn’t turn up. These four MLAs – Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumtalli, Umesh Jadhav, and Nagendra – remained absent on the first day of the Karnataka Assembly session. Besides, three other Congress MLAs didn’t show up, leading the total number of absentees to seven.
In order to curtail the absenteeism, the Grand Old Party issued a whip on February 5 making it mandatory for its 80 legislators to attend the assembly sessions.
The whip is being seen as a pre-emptive measure by the Congress to prevent its disgruntled MLAs from switching sides and defecting to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Let’s take a look at why the ruling coalition has been battling rebellion within its own ranks and how does it affect the political posturing in Karnataka.
The root of the problem
Rumbles of disenchantment within the party ranks translated to alarm bells when two Independent MLAs – H Nagesh and R Shankar – withdrew their support to the Congress-JD(S) coalition on January 15. Reports suggested that these MLAs have been holed up in a Mumbai hotel ever since.
The resentment of the MLAs stems from their desire to get ministerial berths, but the party refusing to accommodate them.
This situation had given rise to what the media popularly terms as ‘Resort Politics’.
What is resort politics?
Resort politics is a phenomenon not very uncommon in Indian politics. Every time a leader faces a trust vote in his respective state assembly and wants to protect his majority, he resorts to resort politics.
When the AIADMK was in shambles after Jayalalithaa’s death, when Vilasrao Deshmukh was facing a trust vote in the Maharashtra Assembly in 2002, and when, recently in 2017 during Rajya Sabha elections, when the Congress kept 44 MLAs at a hotel in Karnataka.
In the case of the present Karnataka Assembly, the exit of two Independents opened the doors to horse trading, a scenario where political parties trying to poach MLAs from each other.
What ensued was BJP herding at least 100 of their MLAs at a hotel in Gurugram on January 15.
After the four defiant MLAs skipped the CLP meeting on January 18, the Congress moved the remaining 76 MLAs to a resort in Bengaluru.
Both the national parties blamed each other for poaching their members while spending crores on protecting their MLAs, who were seen playing cricket on their “forced break” as all their sources of communication were blocked and their phones monitored/confiscated.
Could dissenting MLAs turn the tables in Karnataka Assembly?
In the Karnataka Assembly elections that were held in May last year, the BJP had emerged as the single largest party with 104 seats, yet it was nine short of the halfway mark in the 224-member Assembly.
The Congress came a close second with 80 seats and HD Kumaraswamy’s JD(S) came third with 37 seats. In an urgency to prevent the saffron party from taking the throne, the two adversaries came together and staked claim to form the government.
At that time, Congress leader DK Shivakumar emerged as the consolidating force, engaging in parlances with Independents and other regional parties.
Now, with the two Independents gone, the ruling coalition has 117 seats. Considering that four of Congress’s rebel MLAs defect, the government will be close to the edge at 113, the halfway mark.
A trust vote at this time could really be the straw that broke the camel.
On the first day of the Karnataka Assembly session, the BJP had demanded Kumaraswamy’s resignation citing loss of majority. However, former chief minister and Congress veteran Siddaramaiah and Shivakumar reassured the assembly that the missing MLAs will be back in a few days.
Aren’t defections illegal?
If a member of a political party (say A) defects to another party (say B), he/she can be disqualified from the House/ Assembly under the Anti-Defection Act.
Under the Act, which was included in the Constitution in 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi government, an elected member can be disqualified on the following grounds:
# If he voluntarily gives up his membership or
# He votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to his party’s direction and without obtaining prior permission.
The act came into being at a time when Aaya Ram Gaya Ram became popular in the Indian political lobby after a Haryana MLA Gaya Lal changed his party thrice within the same day in 1967. From the Indian National Congress, he switched to the United Front, back to Congress and then within nine hours to United Front again.Are you happy with your current monthly income? Do you know you can double it without working extra hours or asking for a raise? Rahul Shah, one of the India’s leading expert on wealth building, has created a strategy which makes it possible… in just a short few years. You can know his secrets in his FREE video series airing between 12th to 17th December. You can reserve your free seat here.
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