Bengaluru, May 18, 2018 : Although Karnataka Assembly has 224 seats, the elections in 2 seats have been postponed. Also JD(S) legislative party leader HD Kumaraswamy, who won from two constituencies, will get only one vote during the confidence vote on Saturday. Also, the rules say that the pro tem Speaker of the Assembly will get to vote only in case of a tie.
Thus, the effective number of MLAs voting on Saturday will be reduced to 220. This means that the BJP will get to form the government as long as it can get at least 111 votes in its favour in the floor test.
Only Four MLAs on The Fence So Far
With less than 26 hours left for the floor test, in order to retain power, the BJP with its 104 MLAs will need to reduce the strength of the House to 206 to win on its own strength.
Because (206/2) + 1 = 104.
If both the KPJP MLA and the independent MLA vote against the BJP, then the BJP will need at least 14 MLAs from the Congress-JD(S)-BSP combine to defect or abstain from voting.
The numbers game.
The JD(S)-Congress coalition has submitted affidavits of 116 MLAs to the Supreme Court.
Since the numbers game began, two independent MLAs and two Congress MLAs have been in the centre of the debate.
Two independents MLAs – R Shankar and H Nagesh – were said to be with the Congress camp until Thursday evening, but on Friday, the BJP claimed that both these MLAs have been in touch with the party.
Two Congress MLAs Anand Singh and Pratapgouda Patil have been incommunicado from the Congress camp since Thursday, raising suspicion of them joining hands with the BJP.
However, even if these fence-sitters vote in favour of the BJP or abstain from the floor test, Yeddyurappa still requires 10 more MLAs to defect, if he wants to retain power.
Operation Kamala: BJP’s Last Resort
Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa and BJP President Amit Shah.The term “Operation Kamala” was first heard in Karnataka in 2008. The fractured verdict in the election that year gave the BJP 110 seats. The party, which was short of 3 seats to form the government, approached 6 independent MLAs for support. Within days, the government was formed with support from the independents.
However, Yeddyurappa, who was wary of the independents, launched Phase Two of the so-called Operation Kamala. Three Congress and four JD(S) legislators were convinced by senior BJP leaders like Janardhan Reddy to resign from their seats. With their resignations, the magic figure was brought down, taking Yeddyurappa to a comfortable margin.
These seven leaders were subsequently offered tickets by the BJP for by-elections and out of the seven, five won in the subsequent polls.
Operation Kamala’s 2018 Version Won’t Be the Same
Ten years later, with less than 26 hours left to prove their majority on the floor, the BJP will have to launch Operation Kamala once again. However, the playing ground is different this year. Unlike 2008, the BJP is short by 12 seats and there are only two independent MLAs they can approach.
However, according to sources, the BJP is enticing the Congress MLAs with a similar offer like in 2008. Apart from the promises of ministership and other perks, they are also being offered BJP tickets to contest by-elections.
“In case of defection on the floor, as per the law, the legislator can’t contest in an election for the next 6 years. That is working against the BJP and they have been telling the MLAs to resign from the post, as the law is not clear about resignation and they have done it in the past,” said a senior Congress leader.
Choice of Speaker will be Crucial
Yet another big question: Who will act as the pro tem Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly? Seventy-one-year-old, 8th term MLA RV Deshpande is the senior-most legislator in the house. And by practice, the senior-most member is appointed as the pro-tem Speaker.
The BJP’s Umesh Katti is also serving his 8th term, but he is 57 years old.
While the Congress wants the senior-most member to become the Speaker, the BJP insists that decision on who the pro tem speaker will be at the “discretion of the governor Vajubhai Vala”.
One of the reasons that both parties want their candidate to be Speaker is because of other powers enjoyed by the Speaker in matters related to the anti-defection law.
In 2016, nine JD(S) MLAs violated the party whip and voted for the Congress candidate in a Rajya Sabha election. Even though the JD(S) filed a petition for the disqualification of these MLAs, the speaker of the house KB Koliwad delayed the proceedings for over two years. Even after these Assembly elections are over, the disqualification plea of the JD(S) is still pending.
If both the KPJP MLA and the independent MLA vote against the BJP, and Yeddyurappa is unable to convince 14 JD(S) or Congress leaders to resign or abstain, then the BJP will need 7 Congress/JDS MLAs to cross-vote and support them.
In such a scenario, having a BJP leader as the Speaker would give the BJP the option to delay the proceedings regarding the anti-defection law until the 2019 election or further.