NDTV journalist Sreenivasan Jain embarrassed himself on social media today when he displayed his ignorance about basic facts of Indian legislative system. Talking about the ongoing political crisis in Karnataka, he made a wrong assumption about the current political situation in the state. In his desperation to shield the Congress-JDS government, when others pointed out his misreading of the situation, he went on to mock them instead of realising his mistake.
Jai ho. With the speaker yet to take call on bulk of resignations, BJP still short of numbers but let’s not let that get in the way. https://t.co/YgQveI5El4
— Sreenivasan Jain (@SreenivasanJain) July 26, 2019
Continuing with the ongoing political drama in Karnataka, the speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualified 3 rebel MLAs last evening. These 3 are among the 17 MLAs that have submitted their resignations, which had caused the fall of the Congress-JDS government. But the speaker ruled that the resignation of three among them, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumathalli and R Shankar, were not voluntary and genuine, hence he disqualified them till the end of the term of the current House in 2023.
KR Ramesh didn’t give any verdict on the rest 14 MLAs, he neither accepted their resignations nor disqualified them. This had led to many journalists and experts to start to do complex number crunching to analyse the situation. One among them was Sreenivasan Jain of NDTV, who said that BJP is still short of numbers to form a government, while reacting to the news that BJP leader Yeddyurappa has staked claim to form the government in Karnataka.
To this, one Twitter user replied to him saying that HD Kumaraswami had lost the trust vote by 105-99 votes, and the same situation remains. He explained that if the remaining MLAs are disqualified or their resignations are accepted, the end result will be same. The user also asked Jain when was the last time he had studied math. But Sreenivasan did not agree with that simple explanation. He said as the resignations are not accepted yet, the majority mark in the house is 112, while BJP has 105 MLAs, so it is short of the majority mark by seven. Jain rebuted the user by counter-questioning when was the last time he had studied logic.
.@BJP4Karnataka has the strength of 105 which is way less than the half way mark.
In no way BJP can form the govt if constitution is followed. This only proves that BJP has no belief in the democratic values.@INCKarnataka
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) July 26, 2019
Congress leader and former Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah also thinks that BJP is short of majority mark because the rebel MLAs are still with Congress technically. JD(S) also have claimed that BJP does not have the magic number of 112.
But they are misreading the situation completely, or deliberately mispresenting the situation. Just because the rebel MLAs have not been disqualified or their resignation not accepted, it does not mean the halfway mark in the house goes up. The floor test in assembly depends on the total number of MLAs present in the house during the vote, not on the total number of MLAs as per assembly records. Therefore, even if the rebel MLAs continue to be MLAs, they are likely to remain absent during the trust vote of Yeddyurappa government. The trust vote will take place among the MLAs who appear in the assembly. In that scenario, the halfway mark will be 104, assuming that 14 MLAs maintain their current position. With 105 MLAs, BJP will cross this number. During the trust vote on Tuesday, the halfway mark was 103, as 20 MLAs were absent from the house.
Now, even if the rebel MLAs attend the trust vote, in case the speaker does not take a decision on them before the trust vote, it does not mean Congress and JDS get their votes automatically. In that case the halfway mark will be 112, but during the voting they will either abstain, or vote for BJP defying party whip. In both the cases the BJP government will win the vote. BJP will lose the vote only if the rebel MLAs come to the assembly and vote against them, but that is completely unlikely now. If they were against a BJP government, they would not have resigned in the first place, and would not have allowed the Congress-JDS government to fall by remaining absent during the trust vote.
Sreenivasan Jain and others may believe that Congress and JDS will automatically get the votes of their legislators, but that is not true. If that was the case, there was no need for the trust vote, and the Kumaraswamy government would not also have fallen. The MLAs have to actually cast their votes on the floor of the house.
Some people were seen commenting on social media and TV that the rebel MLAs would like to avoid disqualification and not defy party whip, as speaker Ramesh has sent a strong signal by disqualifying the 3 MLAs till 2023. They argue that the MLAs want to become ministers in BJP government so they will want to contest bypolls, which the can’t if they are disqualified.
But that argument is also not correct, as the speaker was wrong when he said that he has the power to disqualify MLA for the entire term of the house. In recent times, the Election Commission had allowed disqualified MLAs to contest bypolls in Tamil Nadu and Goa, and there is no reason why the rule will be different for Karnataka. It may be noted that the speaker has no role to play in the elections, so he can’t stop someone from contesting an election, which is the exclusive domain of the EC. Moreover, after BJP wins the trust vote, first thing they will do in the assembly is to change the speaker, as KR Ramesh Kumar can’t remain the speaker of the house as his coalition no longer enjoys majority in the house.
The Election Commission has said on record that Disqualified legislators can contest bypolls. If an MLA is disqualified for criminal offences, they are disqualified for a fixed term, but no period of ban is stipulated in case of disqualification under the anti-defection law. Therefore, it is most like that the speaker’s order will be overruled by the EC, and courts are also not expected to oppose the EC in this regard.