The Election Commission of India, in the Supreme Court, has opposed the plea of disqualified MLAs to stay the elections till the SC verdict on their petitioning challenging former speaker’s actions. This comes two days after the notification of dates for by-elections to 15 constituencies in Karnataka was announced by EC. The petitioners asked the SC to stay the elections to their vacant former constituencies till it arrives at a verdict on former speaker, Ramesh Kumar’s ruling not just disqualifying them, but even barring them from contesting elections till the end of the term of 15th assembly session. The SC bench comprising of Justices Krishna Murari, N V Ramana and Sanjiv Khanna has adjourned the case to Wednesday, September 25th.
The SC also served notices to the former Karnataka speaker Ramesh Kumar, JD(S) and the Congress to file their objections in the matter. Reacting to the development, KPCC president Dinesh Gundurao said, ‘Attorneys for Congress will appear in Supreme Court on Thursday and put forth our arguments. We are confident that the Speaker's decision in the case of disqualified MLAs will be upheld by SC. The EC has nothing to do with this case’.
Appearing on behalf of the petitioners, Mukul Rohatgi argued that the legislators moved the SC only after Ramesh Kumar refused to accept their resignations. He added that even if the disqualification is to be upheld, the MLAs should be allowed to contest the by-polls. It is unconstitutional for his speaker to disqualify till the end of the assembly term, he said.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the former speaker sought more to file objections, claiming that Rohatgi has presented new arguments and facts and has asked for interim relief. The EC too has sought to be made a party in the case, saying that since the stay is on its schedule for by-polls, EC’s point of view on the matter should also be heard by EC. The state election commission, sources indicate to Republic, are awaiting further instructions from CEC.
Politically, while the former legislators are pinning their hopes on getting relief from SC and contests in the by-polls, sources in the BJP told Republic that they are exerting immense pressure on Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa to keep the other aspirants in the BJP at bay and ensure they get tickets to their respective constituencies.
The Congress state leadership has held multiple meetings with its legislators and have started a campaign dubbed as ‘self-respect campaign’, to win back most of the seats that the rebel MLAs resigned from to ensure avoiding a further exodus from the party and send a message to those who abandoned Congress recently. The JDS has already prepared a list of candidates to a majority of the constituencies that will face by-polls and have decided to regain lost ground in their stronghold of the Old Mysore region. The legal battle in the SC will pave the way for the political potboiler Karnataka is gearing up for once again.