Karnataka BJP govt survives as speaker gives rebels the slip

Shobha Karandlaje

The BJP government in Karnataka stayed on track Wednesday to present its final budget on February 8 before elections this summer after staving off a resignation attempt by 13 of its MLAs, including two ministers, affiliated to the breakaway, rival Karnataka Janata Party of B S Yeddyurappa.

The BJP stymied the move of the 13 Yeddyurappa loyalists by apparently removing Assembly speaker K G Bopaiah from the picture. The speaker abruptly left on a foreign tour Tuesday night after telling the BJP rebels that he would be available on Wednesday to receive their resignations.

Acceptance of the resignations would have put Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar's government in a minority and would have raised questions about its tenability in the legislature and its powers to present a vote on account on February 8. The BJP has 118 MLAs in the house of 224 members, including the 13 rebels and three associated with the BSR Congress of Janardhan Reddy.

Also, Bopaiah had disqualified 18 rebel BJP MLAs ahead of a trust vote two years back following a request from then chief minister Yeddyurappa, enabling the BJP to narrowly win the vote in a smaller house. The speaker was later censured for his hasty action by the Supreme Court while overturning the disqualification of the 18 MLAs.

Sources said that experience seem to have played a role in the speaker's midnight flight to Kathmandu. He is expected to return only in time for the February 3 Assembly session.

Angered by the sudden absence of the speaker the Yeddyurappa group approached Governor H R Bhardwaj Wednesday afternoon seeking his intervention in bringing the speaker back in what it described as a crisis. The governor promised to act within the ambit of constitutional provisions, Yeddyurappa loyalist C M Udasi said after emerging from the Raj Bhavan.

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