Bengaluru, Sep 27 (IANS) The Election Commission (EC) would soon notify postponing the by-elections in 15 Karnataka assembly segments from October 21, as its counsel assured the Supreme Court earlier in the day, an official said on Thursday.
“A fresh notification on deferring the by-elections in the state from October 21 will be issued by Friday or sooner as our counsel informed the SC (Supreme Court), which is hearing petitions of the 17 disqualified legislators,” state Chief Electoral Officer Sanjeev Kumar told IANS here.
EC counsel Rakesh Dwivedi told a three-judge bench of the apex court headed by N.V. Ramana on deferring the by-polls after a decision to that effect was taken by the three-member poll panel on a joint plea by the aggrieved legislators to it and the top court.
The poll panel on September 21 notified the by-elections in 15 of the 17 assembly seats across the southern state, which fell vacant after the rebels resigned and were disqualified by assembly’s previous speaker K.R. Ramesh Kumar on July 25/28 for its remaining term and barred them from contesting till 2023 on the advice of their parties under the anti-defection law.
The EC did not notify by-polls in two assembly seats (Muski in Raichur district and Mahalakshmi Layout in Bengaluru northwest), as their results in the 2018 assembly elections were challenged in the Karnataka High Court by the defeated candidates and their cases are pending disposal.
“Though we resigned from our assembly segments voluntarily for personal reasons, the former speaker disqualified and prevented us from re-contesting till 2023 instead of accepting our resignations, which some of us re-submitted on the apex court’s directive in July,” former JD-S legislator A.H. Vishwanath told IANS from Mysuru on phone.
Vishwanath represented the Hunsur assembly segment in Mysuru district, about 180 km southwest of Bengaluru. He was also working president of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) for a year but resigned in May after the party faced a rout in the Lok Sabha elections, winning one seat (Hassan) of the seven it contested, taking moral responsibility for the humiliating defeat at the hustings.
The 17 rebel lawmakers, including 14 of the Congress and three of the JD-S were also expelled from their parties for defying their whip to attend the 10-day monsoon session and vote in favour of the confidence motion their former chief minister H.D Kumaraswamy moved on July 18 to prove majority in the House but lost on June 23 in their absence.
“Then Speaker had no right to disqualify us after we resigned and the Supreme Court allowed us not to attend the assembly session if we chose to stay away for reasons we mentioned in our joint petitions to it in July. Secondly, both the parties wrote to the Speaker to disqualify us only after we resigned and before the whip was issued. Where is the defiance to apply the anti-defection law and disqualify us,a asserted Vishwanath.
Vishwanath is one of the former legislators who urged the EC and the SC to postpone the by-polls till their disqualifications were set aside and they were allowed to re-contest as in the case of 19 former AIADMK legislators in Tamil Nadu on April 19 under similar circumstances.
Expressing relief over the EC deciding to put off the by-polls, BJP’s state unit spokesman G. Madhusudana told IANS the party had no objection to the by-polls being deferred, as the apex court was yet to give its ruling on the ‘rebels’ petitions to set aside their disqualification and allow them to re-contest.
“As the EC has six months or till January 28 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignations and then speaker’s decision to disqualify the rebel legislators by July 28, there was no need to hold the them (bypolls) on October 21 along with the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana whose terms end in November,” Madhusudana pointed out.
The Congress also said it had no objection if the bypolls were deferred as the people in the flood-hit districts across the state were yet to recover from the natural disaster caused in August due to unprecedented southwest monsoon rains.