BS Yeddyurappa gets governors nod, but all eyes on next speaker

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BENGALURU: The Karnataka governor asked BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa to take oath as the next chief minister on Thursday, thus moving the spotlight to the Assembly for the ‘floor test’.

Governor Vajubhai Vala has given the BJP leader 15 days to prove his majority on the floor of the House. During this period, elections will also be conducted for the Assembly constituency of RR Nagar where voting was not held on May 12. If counted, this could take the majority mark to 113. Election dates for another constituency, Jayanagar, have not been announced.

Following the development, Congress on Wednesday night moved the Supreme Court to stop the swearing-in.

But more than the floor test, it’s the choice and election of the next Speaker that has the principal political parties in a bind in Karnataka, especially the BJP which has fallen short of the majority by eight seats.

Both camps — the BJP and the JDS-Congress combine — began hectic internal discussions on the subject because election of the next Speaker will in-effect be the first ‘floor test’.

Also, for the BJP, it’s vital that it has a Speaker of its choice as it expects some Opposition MLAs to either resign or switch to its side to close the eight-seat gap to the halfway mark in Assembly.

The strategy around the election of a new Speaker was being drawn up even as BJP members prepared for the swearing-in.

The JDS-Congress combine will put up one candidate for the post of the Speaker which with 116 members would, at least numerically, place them ahead of the BJP’s 104 in case of a vote.

Speaker’s Role Crucial

The rival parties can reach a consensus but this appears unlikely in the current situation.

The floor test is usually performed by an elected Speaker, not a pro-tem Speaker who is meant to only conduct the swearing-in process of the new MLAs.

Also, the Speaker has considerable discretion in dealing with complaints under the anti-defection law. In many cases, MLAs have voted against the whip but the Speaker doesn’t necessarily give his ruling immediately.

There are precedents as in the case of Uttar Pradesh Speaker Keshari Nath Tripathi, as well as in the present Assemblies of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were the Speaker did not give a ruling and kept the issue hanging.

Since the Speaker is not specifically bound by a timeframe, the ruling party can continue to be in power for months.

Speaker of the outgoing Karnataka Assembly KB Koliwad did not disqualify seven legislators from the JDS who cross-voted in favour of the Congress candidate in a Rajya Sabha poll.

“Even though the high courts said they should be disqualified, the Speaker simply sat on the matter,” said a BJP member.

Both sides have submitted formal letters to the governor stating that they have the requisite strength to form government.

“Finally, what matters is who will be the Speaker, who will oversee the confidence vote. The Speaker election will itself be a de facto floor test,” a senior Congress legislator told ET.

The BJP is of the same view. A top office-bearer of the party said: “We are discussing who we should make the Speaker as it should be someone who is perceived to be fair and not partisan.”

Neither side is willing to be quoted in detail on the matter, but they admit that the main priority is to have a Speaker who would ensure “fairness” in proceedings.

“It will have to be a person from our side, of course, but the numbers are there, no questions will be asked,” the Congress legislator quoted above pointed out.

The BJP is optimistic of crossing the hurdle. “Several JDS and Congress members are willing to switch sides and vote for us. So it is crucial that the Speaker is someone who is ready to work with us on this,” a senior BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.

Source: Economic Times