Bengaluru: In a rude shock for the disqualified Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) legislators, who are still not out of the woods, the Election Commission of India on Saturday announced bypolls to 15 of the 17 Assembly constituencies they had resigned from in July to bring down the Kumaraswamy government, on October 21.
Only the byelection to Maski and Raja Rajeshwari Nagar assembly constituencies, has been postponed due to a pending election petition filed by defeated candidates in the Karnataka High Court.
This puts the former legislators at a huge disadvantage as their case challenging their disqualification by the former Karnataka Speaker is scheduled to come up before the Supreme Court as late as September 23.
Announcing the bypoll schedule at a press conference here, Chief Electoral Officer of Karnataka, Sanjiv Kumar said that as former Speaker, K R Ramesh Kumar had disqualified all 17 MLAs they could contest the coming byelections only if the Supreme Court ruled in their favour when their case came up for hearing on Monday. He said the filing of nomination papers would begin from September 23 and the last date for withdrawal of nominations was September 30. Scrutiny of nomination papers will take place on October 1 and the last date for withdrawal of nomination papers is October 3. The counting for the by-elections will be held on October 24.
The tight schedule puts a question mark on the fate of the disqualified MLAs, Ramesh Jarkiholi, Mahesh Kumatalli, R Shankar, Prabhu Patil, B C Patil, Shivaram Hebbar, S T Somashekar, Anand Singh, R Roshan Baig, MTB Nagaraj, A H Vishwanath, Narayanagowda, N Gopalaiah, Bairathi Basavaraj, and Dr K Sudhakar, who had hoped to contest from their old constituencies for a fresh innings in the BJP government in the state.
Unfortunately for the former legislators, who have been growing increasingly restive over the delay in their case coming up before the SC, its hearing was put off by a week recently after one of the judges, Justice Mohan Nagangoudar, recused from it.
On learning of the announcement of the bypolls, the disqualified legislators rushed to Bengaluru to meet CM B.S. Yediyurappa and vented their frustration at the party’s lack of interest in pursuing their case. They are expected to go to Delhi to meet their advocate on Sunday to explore legal options to stay the ECI notification on the bypolls. Mr Yediyurappa cancelled all his appointments to hold a meeting with advocate general, Prabhulinga Navadagi to explore legal avenues to help the former legislators and held a video conference with Union home minister and BJP national president, Amit Shah over what the party's next course of action should be. His political secretary, S.R. Vishwanath reportedly held talks with law minister C.J. Madhuswamy on ways to have the ECI notification stayed in the SC.
Putting on a brave face, disqualified MLA K. Sudhakar told reporters later that the former legislators were confident of the SC ruling in their favour as the Speaker had taken an “unilateral” decision without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves. “We will request the apex court to direct the ECI not to hold the bypolls to the 15 Assembly segements till our case is disposed of,” he said. Although, the disqualified legislators tried to seem confident, they were tense as they had planned to appeal before the SC to transfer their case back to the Speaker of the assembly for a fresh hearing. They can hope to contest the bypolls only if the court either stays the ECI notification or refers their case to the Speaker before October 4.
The constituencies going to polls are Gokak, Athani, Ranebennur, Kagwad, Hirekerur, Yellapura, Yesvantpur, Vijayanagara, Shivajinagar, Hosakote, Hunsur, Krishnarajapet, Mahalakshmi Layout, K R Pura and Chikkaballapura. Meanwhile, Dr Sudhakar has resigned as chairman of the KSPCB and handed over his resignation letter to the Chief Minister....