Ruling Congress today suffered a major setback in the Karnataka Legislative Council as a no-confidence motion it moved against the House Chairman was defeated by a united opposition by a single vote. D H Shankaramuthy, a BJP veteran, will continue to remain Chairman as the motion against him was defeated with JDS continuing to support him after rejecting overtures by the Congress to join hands. Two independent members also went with the BJP. While the motion for removal of Shankaramurthy secured 36 votes in its favour, 37 were against it. In the 75-member Council, the Congress has 33 members, BJP 23, JDS 13, besides 5 Independents and the Chairman. Currently one seat is vacant following the death of BJP MLC Vimala Gowda.
Deputy Chairman Maritibbe Gowda, who presided over the proceedings, declared that the “motion is rejected”. Earlier moving the motion, Ugrappa (Cong) accused Shankaramurthy of impropriety, nepotism, corruption and partisan behaviour. He also alleged that as Chairman, Shankarmurthy worked against the rules and procedures of the House, the Constitution, and secular principles by openly showing his favoritism towards certain religious forces. The Chair expunged some charges against Shankaramurthy, saying they were without any evidence.
Shankaramurthy termed Ugrappa’s allegations as “blatant lies”. Stating that it was his privilege to work as Chairman of the Karnataka Legislative Council, he claimed he has functioned in a non-partisan and responsible manner. Pointing out that his tenure as the Chairman has been an “open book”, Shankaramurthy told the members, “You have seen my work, vote according to your conscience.” Shankaramurthy on June 13 had allowed the notice for moving a no-confidence motion against him by Ugrappa and nine other Congress MLCs.
Allowing the motion, he had said it makes no specific charges and it was not qualified or methodical but still he was allowing it in the spirit of democracy and with due respect to the House and its authority. The House also witnessed chaotic scenes, over the issue whether Ugrappa should be allowed to make charges against Shankaramurthy while moving the motion, as it was not mentioned in the notice as per procedures. After hearing the arguments made by both sides quoting rule book, the Chair decided that both will be allowed to present their stand for five minutes.
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Speaking to reporters after the trust vote, JDS state chief H D Kumaraswamy clarified that his support for BJP had nothing to do with the illegal mining case he was facing. He said his party was only maintaining a status quo by sticking to an agreement with the BJP according to which the national party will occupy Chairman’s post, and his party Deputy Chairman’s post. Stating that KPCC President G Parameshwara had offered his party the chairman’s post this morning ahead of the trust vote, he said the Congress was indulging in “political opportunism”.
Shankaramurthy on his part said all the allegations made against him were “totally baseless, irresponsible and irrelevant”. BJP’s K S Eshwarappa, who is leader of opposition in the Council, called the no-confidence motion an attempt by Congress to seize the chairman’s post through “cunning politics.” He said JDS’ support in this trust vote is a step towards creating Congress-free Karnataka and the party high command will take “suitable decisions” in the days to come.