In a relief to the Congress-JDS government, the Karnataka Assembly Thursday passed the Finance bill amid the ongoing political turmoil that had kept the ruling coalition on the edge over its numbers.
It was passed without discussion amid uproarious scenes with BJP members staging protests over the attack on party MLA Pritam Gowda’s house at Hassan and alleging that JD(S) workers were involved in the attack on the directions from the Chief Minister.
They also raised slogans “down down goonda government.” While presenting the budget, chief minister H D Kumaraswamy had also sought approval for vote on account towards expenditure up to July 31, 2019.
The passage has dispelled doubts raised about it after several disgruntled Congress MLAs skipped the legislature party meetings and the assembly session defying party whip.
There were also reports that the BJP may go all out to defeat the Finance bill, taking advantage of the discord within the Congress and the shaky coalition and absenteeism of their MLAs from the proceedings of the House.
Adding fuel to the speculation about BJP’s plans was the party’s success in disrupting Governor Vajubhai Vala’s address to the joint sitting of the legislature and about 10 members of the ruling alliance being absent from the House.
The assembly passed by voice vote the Karnataka Appropriation (vote on Account) Bill-2019, supplementary estimates, along with motion of thanks to the Governor for his address.
This was amidst din as BJP members were in the Well of the House staging protest over attack on Gowda’s house.
Facing allegations that it was trying to destabilise the coalition government by poaching ruling coalition MLAs, BJP had also sought to create an impression that the government might collapse before presenting the budget itself.
The political drama for the last eight weeks also saw both the Congress and BJP sequester their MLAs in hotels and resorts to keep the flock together, that had also triggered speculation about the numbers game.
However, the BJP went on the backfoot after the chief minister released an audio clip about a purported conversation of its state chief B S Yeddyurappa in his alleged attempt to lure a JDS MLA with bribe through his son.
Gripped by anxiety over its errant MLAs, the Congress had petitioned the Speaker Ramesh Kumar requesting him to disqualify four of its rebel law makers under the anti-defection law for violating whip.
The ruling coalition got a relief on Wednesday when Ramesh Jarkiholi, Umesh Jadhav, B Nagendra and Mahesh Kumathali, who had had kept the Congress on tenterhooks for several weeks, and were reported to be in touch with the BJP with an intention to switch sides, attended the assembly.
According to sources, the four decided to attend the proceedings to vote in favour of the finance bill, to save themselves from the disqualification move.
The Congress had petitioned Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Monday, seeking action against the four MLAs after warning them to mend their ways and fall in line.
The four lawmakers skipped the CLP meeting on January 18,which was meant to be a show of strength in the backdrop of BJP’s alleged bid to topple the coalition government, and another CLP meet Friday last, despite a whip.
The MLAs were earlier given notices, seeking an explanation for their conduct.
Another Congress MLA J N Ganesh, who was reportedly on the BJP’s radar for desertion, is absconding ever since he allegedly assaulted fellow lawmaker Anand Singh during a brawl at a resort recently.
The bills and motion of thanks to the Governor for his address were adopted amid the din as BJP protested the government on the issue of attack on MLA Pritam Gowda’s residence in Hassan, allegedly by JD(S) workers.
As the House met for the day, BJP members entered the Well and started shouting slogans “down down goonda government”, “down to the government that attacks MLA’s house”.
Alleging that JD(S) workers were involved in the attack on party member Pritam Gowda’s house on the directions from the Chief Minister, he said “they have threatened Gowda’s life…when about 300-400 people had assembled near his residence only handful of policemen were there.”
Pointing out that BJP has submitted a memorandum to the Governor, Yeddyurappa said, “please give protection to Gowda. Anything may happen to him.
Chief Minister was behind it as he not able to digest a young leader’s growth in Hassan. We demand a comprehensive inquiry.” Intervening, the Speaker directed the government to provide protection to Pritam Gowda.
“It is my duty to protect him I’m giving directions for providing protection to Gowda, nothing should happen to him. Protection should be given to MLA while out on work also, and also to his family.
I’m giving clear directions,” he said.
Despite this, BJP protested from the well shouting slogans “we want justice, down goonda government..down down down the government that is tapping leader of opposition’s phone.” As chaos continued, the speaker adjourned the House till late afternoon after the bills were passed.