Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar claimed that his only obligation was to the state.
Karnataka Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar met 10 rebel lawmakers from the ruling coalition this evening in keeping with a Supreme Court order, but it seemed unlikely that their resignations would be accepted in the coming hours. The sole reason for this, Ramesh Kumar claimed, was his “obligation to the state”.
The 10 rebel lawmakers are among the 18 who have deserted the Congress-Janata Dal Secular combine over the last few days, leaving the HD Kumaraswamy government teetering on the brink of collapse and giving the opposition BJP a clear edge in the floor test to come. However, the lawmakers have alleged that Ramesh Kumar is deliberately delaying his decision on the resignation letters submitted to him just for buying the ruling coalition enough time to shore up its numbers.
The Speaker, however, flatly rejected the allegations. “There is a feeling that I am deliberately holding back the resignations. They say that I intentionally refrained from meeting them when they visited my office on July 6 without an appointment. But the truth is, I had to leave early. Being a Sunday, I had prior commitments,” he said.
Ramesh Kumar said he was 70 years old already, an age where one can’t expect to gain much from playing political games. “But all this made it seem like I am a bad person. Please let me die in peace,” he added.
However, when asked if he would look into the resignations by tonight, the Speaker said he cannot be expected to work at “lightning speed”. “I have to go through the procedure as per the constitution. I need to examine these resignations all night and ascertain if they are genuine,” he said. “I am not for or against anybody. I am for the Constitution.”
Ramesh Kumar also expressed dismay over the manner in which the rebel legislators had rushed to Supreme Court instead of approaching him in person. “They never came to me with any of this. They went to Mumbai — and from there to the Supreme Court – but they did not come to meet me, their own speaker. Is this fair?” he asked, accusing the rebels of “changing three parties between breakfast, lunch and dinner”.
Earlier, the top court had directed Ramesh Kumar to decide on the status of the resignations by the end of the day. The Speaker petitioned against the order, stating that he needs more time to decide whether the resignations were coerced or voluntary. “It is my constitutional duty to verify the resignations, and such an inquiry cannot be completed forthwith or by 12 midnight,” he said, adding that he will be sending video recordings of his meetings with the legislators to the Supreme Court.
Rejecting the resignation letters on the grounds that they were not written in the proper format, the Speaker had asked the lawmakers to meet him on July 17. However, despite the extended deadline, a desperate Congress has been unable to coax the rebel legislators back into the fold so far.
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