Diabolical designs

According to news reports, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken to the streets in Karnataka, demanding the recall of Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj. BJP leaders claim that they have a massive majority and that Mr Bhardwaj should immediately call a session of the Karnataka Assembly. There have been impassioned declarations against Mr Bhardwaj

and the BJP’s entire national leadership has paraded a large number of MLAs in Rashtrapati Bhavan. That one of the BJP MLAs was arrested on his way to Delhi for possessing illegal arms and ammunition is only a commentary on the nature of BJP MLAs.
However, the BJP, which waxes so eloquent upon the false majority it allegedly enjoys in Karnataka and the leadership of that party maintain a stunning silence regarding the significant judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on May 13, 2011. The judgment was delivered in regard to the appeal filed by 16 MLAs from Karnataka who had gone to the Supreme Court challenging the order of K.G. Bopaiah, the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, disqualifying them from holding office as MLA, in October 2010. Mr Bopaiah’s order assumes importance. It was delivered in haste, with the specific intention of preventing those MLAs from voting upon a confidence motion brought by the Yeddyurappa government to prove its majority. As a result of Mr Bopaiah’s illegal order, those 16 MLAs could not exercise their vote and the Yeddyurappa government consequently survived.
On May 13, the Supreme Court struck down the order of Mr Bopaiah. It rejected the disqualification of the MLAs and passed severe strictures against the Speaker as well as Mr Yeddyurappa. The Supreme Court observed in Para 77: “There was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the disqualification application filed by Shri Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the governor to the Speaker to conduct a vote of confidence”. Para 86 of the judgment of the Supreme Court is even more specific. It says: “Having concluded the hearing on October 10, 2010 by 5 pm, the Speaker passed a detailed order in which various judgments from both Indian and foreign courts and principles of law were referred to on the very same day”.
In Para 77, the Supreme Court delivers an indictment of Mr Bopaiah when it says: “The conduct on the part of the Speaker is also indicative of the haste with which the Speaker disposed of the disqualification petition as complained of by the applicants”. Para 91 of the judgment observes as follows: “We are constrained to hold that the proceedings conducted by the Speaker on the disqualification application moved by Shri B.S. Yeddyurappa do not meet the twin tests of natural justice and fairplay”. And the denouement in Para 87 says, “Unless it was to ensure that the trust vote did not go against the chief minister, there was no conceivable reason for the chief minister to have taken up the disqualification application in such a hurry”.
The Supreme Court judgment makes it very clear that the disqualification of the 16 MLAs was illegal, unconstitutional and motivated by malafide intention. Leave aside for a moment the strong strictures passed against Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa in this judgment. Any party or any politician with a modicum of respect for the verdict of the court, for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for the core value of accountability in a democratic polity would have resigned on the spot. Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa not only cling to their chair and position even after this judgment but they also have the temerity to march to the President of India and seek the removal of Mr Bhardwaj.
The fundamental issue here is the fact that from the day Mr Bopaiah passed the illegal order, the Yeddyurappa government became an illegal and unconstitutional government operating on the basis of an illegal and fake majority. It had lost the legal and constitutional right to continue in office. Consider the facts. Mr Yeddyurappa faces a rebellion. A large number of BJP MLAs express lack of confidence in him and become dissidents. The governor asks him to hold a vote of confidence and show his majority. Through blatant political chicanery, the Speaker and the chief minister collude to disqualify before voting the very MLAs who will vote against them. And having pushed those 16 out of the Assembly, the chief minister “wins’ his confidence vote. Obviously, had those MLAs been inside and voting, Mr Yeddyurappa would not be the chief minister today and the government would have fallen. At that time, on October 13 to be precise, L.K. Advani and the entire top brass of the BJP marched down Rashtrapati Bhavan with a memorandum stating how it “was incumbent upon the Speaker to disqualify such persons (the rebel MLAs) with immediate effect”.
The aggrieved MLAs went to court, the high court held against them and finally the Supreme Court ruled in their favour and passed severe strictures against Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa. Due to horse-trading, which the Yeddyurappa government is famous for, the dissident MLAs have now turned into obedient soldiers of the BJP and are now prepared to back the chief minister. The inducements that the chief minister might have offered them are best left unmentioned. So here is the bizarre result. There were rebel MLAs of the BJP who would have unseated the Yeddyurappa government in October 2010. Mr Yeddyurappa moves a petition for their disqualification, which Mr Bopaiah endorses in illegal and unseemly haste. The MLAs are disqualified and Mr Yeddyurappa wins a trust vote. In reality this is a manufactured majority. The Yeddyurappa government became illegal from October 11, 2010, but the legal process allowed him to continue in office until the final Supreme Court judgment.
Today, the disqualification has been set aside, but the MLAs back Mr Yeddyurappa. What then is the status of the Indian Constitution in Karnataka? Is it what Mr Yeddyurappa decides will suit him for the time being? Surely the people of Karnataka deserve a better deal than this. As for the Central leadership of the BJP, the less said the better.

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this column are her own.

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