- Ten Karnataka lawmakers flew to Bengaluru this evening
- The Supreme Court ordered them to meet the Speaker
- The Speaker will decide whether their resignations stand
Ten rebel Karnataka lawmakers, heavily protected by policemen, briskly walked to the Speaker's chamber in the state assembly Vidhana Souda on Thursday holding blank papers and rewrote their resignation which, if accepted, will leave the ruling Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition in a minority. "They have submitted their resignations," Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar told reporters after the one-hour meeting.
Asked whether he had accepted the resignations, which he had rejected on grounds of wrong format, the Speaker said: "You cannot expect me to work at lightning speed. I have to go through the procedure as per the constitution. I need to examine these resignations all night and ascertain if they are genuine."
The Supreme Court had ordered him to meet the rebel lawmakers, who have been in Mumbai since Saturday, and make up his mind on whether he would accept their resignation. After meeting the Speaker, 14 legislators flew back to Mumbai, according to news agency Press Trust of India.
The meeting was video-recorded amid allegations that a lawmaker who had quit yesterday, K Sudhakar, was manhandled and locked up by leaders of the Congress and JDS. One of the rebels, B Basavaraj, was seen half-running into the Speaker's office. Once inside, they reportedly told the Speaker they would submit their resignation again in the format that Mr Ramesh wanted.
The rebels had gone to the Supreme Court yesterday alleging that the Speaker had not accepted their resignation letters as a stalling tactic to help the Congress-JDS government and give its negotiators time to win them back.
The Speaker has also approached the top court; he has asked for time to examine whether the resignations were coerced or voluntary. Mr Kumar said it was his constitutional duty to verify the resignations and "such an inquiry cannot be completed forthwith or latest by 12 midnight today."
A group of 11 rebel lawmakers resigned on Saturday and five more have quit since then. The Speaker has not accepted any of the letters; if he does, the coalition will instantly dip below the half-way mark and the BJP can flaunt a majority.
After examining the letters on Tuesday, Mr Kumar rejected eight, asking the lawmakers to meet him on July 17. Representing the dissidents, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Speaker "has made himself scarce, he is not doing what he is supposed to do."
The HD Kumaraswamy-led Karnataka coalition, which came to power in May last year, is hanging on to power by the fingernails after 18 resignations since last week.
The coalition's 118 members will come down to 100 and the majority mark will drop from 113 to 105. The BJP has 105 members and the support of the two Independents, which takes its tally to 107.
Despite the breather because of the Speaker's deadline, a desperate Congress has been unable to coax the rebels back into the fold despite the efforts of its troubleshooter DK Shivakumar, a skilled peace-broker who has kept the alliance running for over a year.
The 10 rebels went to the Supreme Court yesterday after Mr Shivakumar arrived to meet them at a five-star hotel in Mumbai and waited for hours, blocked by policemen. They firmly refused to meet Mr Shivakumar, who was finally escorted to the airport by the Mumbai Police and sent back in the next flight to Bengaluru.
Mr Kumaraswamy, asked about reports that he was ready to step down, said today: "What is the necessity for me to resign now?"
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