By-elections for 15 seats vacant in Karnataka after the resignations of Congress and JDS legislators have been announced by the Election Commision of India. Elections for four of those constituencies will be held on January 24 and for eleven remaining, on January 27. The EC is yet to announce dates for elections for two more seats, Maski and Rajarajaeshwari Nagar, which too were rendered vacant after the mass resignations.
The by-polls will have colossal repercussions for the political landscape of the state as the current BJP government has a wafer-thin majority in the assembly where the total strength was reduced after resignations of 17 MLAs. After the legislators had tendered their resignations to the then speaker Ramesh Kumar, he had sought to disqualify all 17 of them till the expiry of the assembly tenure. His disqualification order has been challenged in the Supreme Court by the former legislators.
The petition claims that the action of the then speaker was ‘arbitrary and unreasonable’ and sought to reverse his decision. It also contended that the speaker’s verdict is ‘an abuse of his powers under the 10th Schedule of the Constitution’. The petition is still being heard by the SC and the orders for the same are awaited. On September 16th, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar had recused himself from hearing the case stating that since he hails from Karnataka, his conscience does not allow him to be part of the bench. Justice N.V. Ramana and Justice Ajay Rastogi were the other two judges on the bench hearing the case.
Between July 1 and 10, 15 Congress and JDS legislators had tendered their resignations and two independent MLAs had withdrawn their support to the HD Kumaraswamy led coalition government. After much political parlaying and high-octane debate for days on the floor of the Karnataka assembly, on August 26, the BJP formed the government in the state.
The halfway mark in Karnataka assembly is 112 and in a truncated assembly, BJP had won the trust vote comfortably as the magic number was 105 and BJP legislators, with the support of an independent MLA had sailed smoothly. BJP will have to win at least 8 of the 15 seats in the by-polls to retain their government in the state. The opposition parties, Congress and JDS, which had formed the previous government together have decided to fight the by-elections separately, without a pre-poll alliance with each other.