The political drama surrounding the government formation in Karnataka refuses to die down. As the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) ferried their newly elected MLAs out of Karnataka fearing defections ahead of the crucial hearing in Supreme Court on Karnataka government formation, there is still no confirmation on their exact whereabouts. Contrary to earlier reports suggesting that the MLAs were herded to Kochi in Kerala where they were to be parked till the floor test, latest reports now suggest that the MLAs are being taken to Hyderabad. Reports suggest that MLAs will stay at the Park Hyatt hotel in the city and that security has been tightened outside the five-star hotel. According to news agency ANI, MLAs had last night deboarded a bus at a toll gate on the Hyderabad highway and boarded a sleeper bus bound for Hyderabad. MT Thomas, a JD(S) leader and Minister in Kerala, told ANI on Friday morning that he is not sure where the MLAs are being taken. “I am definite they (Karnataka JD(S) MLAs) aren’t coming by flight so I’m moving to Kurnool. Not sure about destination if they come here, they’re welcome. I was expecting them y’day but Civil Aviation Dept didn’t give permission to charter flight,” he said.
The development came a day ahead of the crucial hearing in Supreme Court on a petition moved by the Congress and JD(S) challenging the Governor’s decision to invite BS Yeddyurappa, leader of the BJP legislative party, to form government in the state. After the top court, in an unprecedented nightlong hearing, refused to order a stay on Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in scheduled for Thursday morning, the hearing in the matter will resume at 10.30 am today.
Meanwhile, contrary to the allegations of the Congress-JD(S) that planes were denied permission, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told The Indian Express that no permission is required from the regulator to operate charter planes in the country. “For operation of charter flights within India, operators do not require any permission from DGCA,” Director General of Civil Aviation BS Bhullar told the daily. On April 19, almost three weeks ahead of May 12 assembly polls, the IE report said that the DGCA had amended the rules to operate charter flights. It had put the onus on accountable managers of all operators and state civil aviation authorities to ensure compliance of rules to operate charter planes.
Here are the top developments in Karnataka government formation since Thursday:
1. Trouble began for the Congress on Thursday at 4pm when police officials deployed outside the Eagleton Golf resort near here were withdrawn and local SP was transferred. A local Congress leader on terms of anonymity told the daily that with no police outside the resort, it was difficult to manage the movements. He told the daily that no cars were allowed to enter the resort without ‘clearance’ and even guests were asked to prove their credentials.
2. He added that he was given directions from the party’s state unit leadership to refuse entry to Congress leaders without clearance and also stop MLAs from leaving the resort. “It has not been easy. Many leaders hate me now. I have had to refuse entry to senior district and block presidents and even some former MLAs. But this is party work and right now, without police, it is very important,” the Congress leader told The Indian Express. On Thursday, Humnabad MLA Rajshekhar Patil had at 1:30 pm tried to leave the resort but was stopped by police at the gate. Rajshekhar said that he needed to go to hospital, but was denied permission to go out. But 15 minutes later, he was allowed to go out.
3. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will today resume hearing on a petition filed by the Congress-JD(S) combine contesting Governor Vajubhai Vala’s invitation to the BJP to form a government in the state. The matter will come up for hearing before three judges bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan at 10:30 am. The bench had in a pre-dawn hearing refused to stay BS Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in and sought the letters sent by him to the Governor staking claim to form the government.
4. In its directives issued in the wee hours on Thursday, the apex court had asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to produce the letters (dated May 15 and 16) when the court hears the matter again on Friday. Besides, it said that government formation in the southern state shall be subject to further orders and final outcome of the writ petition. The court said that it is necessary to peruse the letters sent by BSY to the Raj Bhavan to decide the matter.
5. The matter reached the Supreme Court late on Wednesday evening when reports started doing the rounds that Governor has invited the BJP to form a government. The Congress-JD(S), the two parties that contested election separately but forged an alliance post-declaration of results, have been contending that they enjoy a majority in 224-strong Assembly and the invitation by the Governor to the BJP is ‘unconstitutional’.
6. After the SC’s refusal to stay BSY’s swearing-in, the BJP strongman on Thursday at 9 am took oath as the Chief Minister at Raj Bhavan and later held one-man Cabinet meeting with senior bureaucrats in Bengaluru. He announced to waive off farm loans to the tune of Rs one lakh for farmers and called upon MLAs to vote as per their conscience during the vote of confidence inside the Assembly. The newly appointed CM later addressing the BJP workers said that he doesn’t need 15 days granted to him by the Governor to prove majority. “I don’t need 15 days to prove my majority… I am keen to do it as soon as possible,” Yeddyurappa said.
7. In Bengaluru, scores of Congress MLAs and senior leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ashok Gehlot, Mallikarjun Kharge and Siddaramaiah sat on dharna on Thursday near Mahatma Gandhi statue in the Vidhan Soudha to protest against BSY’s swearing-in. They were later joined by Janata Dal (Secular) supremo HD Deve Gowda. The JD(S) has already accused the BJP to resorting to wrong means to earn support of party MLAs. The party said that the BJP has offered its MLAs Rs 100 crore to vote in favour of Yeddyurappa when he faces floor test.
8. Congress president Rahul Gandhi while addressing a rally in Raipur on Thursday afternoon, stoked a controversy with his remark on judiciary. In an apparent reference to the developments in Karnataka, he drew an analogy between India’s judiciary with Pakistan’s. He said that ‘something like this happened for the first time in a democratic country’. “It happens in dictatorships. It happened in Pakistan and Africa. But this happened for the first time in 70 years in India,” he said while addressing Congress’ Jan Swaraj Sammelan as part of the party’s preparations for Chhattisgarh assembly polls slated to be held later this year.
9. The argument that the single largest party should be invited first to form government has given the Congress a chance to argue that in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party and thus it should be given preference to form the government. But in all the three states, the BJP forged a post-poll alliance to keep the Congress out of the power. In Meghalaya, the BJP was ranked fifth largest party with just 2 seats in 60-member House but the party managed to storm to the power with support from regional parties. In Bihar also, the RJD has been arguing that it is the single largest party hence the current BJP-JD(U) government should be dissolved and the Governor should invite Lalu’s party to prove the majority first.