Karnataka Battle In Top Court, Rebel Lawmakers Told To Meet Speaker Today
Ten Karnataka lawmakers who allege their resignations haven't been accepted in an attempt to help the ruling Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition in the state flew to Bengaluru this evening after the Supreme Court ordered them to meet the Speaker.
The rebel lawmakers were asked to appear before Speaker Ramesh Kumar at 6 pm. The court ordered police protection for them and said the Speaker must decide today on whether the resignations stand.
Hours later, the Speaker also petitioned against the order and asked the court for time to examine the resignations, to decide whether they were coerced or voluntary. Mr Kumar said it was his constitutional duty to verify the resignations and "such an inquiry cannot be completed forthwith or latest by 12 midnight today."
"There was no need for them (MLAs who resigned) to approach the Court (for a direction) that I should meet them. They could have willingly come here. That itself shows the whole thing is murky," he told reporters today.
The lawmakers, who flew from Bengaluru to Mumbai on the weekend after submitting their resignations, accuse the Speaker of sitting on their letters to help save the Congress-JDS government and to give its negotiators time to regain numbers.
The Speaker, who says he was not in office when the resignation letters came in, examined them on Tuesday and rejected eight, asking the lawmakers to meet him on July 17.
Representing the lawmakers, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Speaker "has made himself scarce, he is not doing what he is supposed to do."
Mr Rohatgi requested the court to enable the lawmakers to appear before the Speaker. The Karnataka coalition, which came to power in May last year, is on the brink after 18 resignations since last week.
A group of 11 rebel lawmakers resigned on Saturday and five more have quit since then. The Speaker has not accepted any of the letters; if he does, the coalition will instantly dip below the half-way mark and the BJP can flaunt a majority.
But as he received two more resignations on Wednesday, Mr Kumar said the lawmakers should meet him next Wednesday, along with the others.
Despite the breather because of the Speaker's deadline, a desperate Congress has been unable to coax the rebels back into the fold despite the efforts of its troubleshooter DK Shivakumar.
The 10 rebels who went to the Supreme Court yesterday were staying at a five-star hotel in Mumbai before flying to Bengaluru today. Seeking more security, they had refused to meet Mr Shivakumar, who was stopped by the Mumbai Police from entering the hotel on Wednesday.
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Trouble For Karnataka Congress, 2 Lawmakers Quit, BJP Keeps Close Watch
Two Congress legislators in Karnataka put in their papers today, in fresh trouble for the ruling Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in the state. Anand Singh resigned first, and hours later Ramesh Jarkiholi gave his resignation to the Speaker.
While the Congress has yet to confirm his resignation, Mr Singh says that he has quit and went to meet the Governor. A senior Congress leader termed his exit "shocking".
The Congress and the JD(S) are wary of a potential revival of what is referred to as "Operation Lotus". The term was first used in 2008, when the BJP was accused of inciting several opposition legislators to defect to ensure the stability of its government headed by BS Yeddyurappa.
"I have submitted by resignation as the people of my constituency are agitated over the government's approval to lease out government land to the Jindals," Anand Singh told reporters. The state assembly speaker's office confirmed receiving the legislator's letter on Monday afternoon.
With two lawmakers gone from the Congress, the party is down to 77 members in the assembly. The JDS-Congress alliance has now a wafer thin 114 lawmakers in the 224-member Karnataka assembly where the majority mark is 113. The BJP has 105, BSP has one and there is one independent.
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is currently in the US on a private visit. "I'm at Kalabhairaveshwara temple foundation laying ceremony (in New Jersey). I'm watching TV channels. Destabilising government continues to be a daydream of BJP," Mr Kumaraswamy tweeted.
The BJP in Karnataka is keeping a close watch. "Even I have heard about his (Anand Singh's) resignation through media. We don't want to destabilise the government... If the government falls on own its own, we will explore the possibilities of forming the new government but there is no question of fresh elections," Karnataka BJP chief and former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa said.
"Anand Singh resignation is shocking to me... I spoke to the Chief Minister. There is no problem in the coalition government," senior Karnataka Congress leader and minister DK Shivakumar said.
Anand Singh, the legislator from Vijayanagar, was hospitalised earlier this year after he was allegedly thrashed and abused by another lawmaker during their stay at a resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru where Congress legislators had been taken for safe-keeping.
It was said that Mr Singh had been involved in dissident activity but that he was convinced to stay with the party at that time.
The Congress has been fighting dissidence since the beginning of the year, with several Congress legislators openly critical of the party and staying away from legislature party meets that had been called.
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Jagan Reddy Orders Demolition Of Praja Vedika Building Built By Chandrababu Naidu
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has ordered the demolition of a swanky building with glass walls that his predecessor Chandrababu Naidu used as a venue to meet the public, hold press conferences and conduct sundry work.
Mr Naidu had written to the new Chief Minister on June 4 to allow him to retain the hall so that he could work from there as the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly. "I wish to continue the same arrangement, that the Praja Vedika be declared as the residence annexe of the leader of the opposition, to facilitate me to meet legislators, visitors, common public and discharge my duties," Mr Naidu wrote.
The building 'Praja Vedika', conveniently located near Mr Naidu's home, was built in 2017 at a cost of Rs. 5 crore by the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) government.
The new YSR Congress Party government that came to power with a massive mandate took over Praja Vedika last weekend to organise Mr Reddy's first meet with district collectors after becoming Chief Minister.
During the meet, Mr Reddy said it was the last event at Praja Vedika as the building was "illegal" and it would be demolished on Wednesday.
The YSR Congress Party has also been claiming that the house where Mr Naidu lived when he was Chief Minister, on the banks of the Krishna river, was illegally built.
The YSR Congress decimated Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party and also swept to victory in 22 of 25 parliamentary constituencies, making it the fourth-largest in parliament, behind the BJP, the Congress and the DMK.
Mr Reddy in his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 30 had discussed issues regarding special category status for Andhra Pradesh, a demand over which Mr Naidu broke away from the National Democratic Alliance.
Special status will mean a large infusion of central funds to help with the state government's plans to develop its new capital Amravati. This has been a long-standing demand of Andhra Pradesh government since Telangana was carved out of it in 2014.
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Niti Aayog's crucial meet on drought, farm distress and Naxalism begins in New Delhi
The fifth meeting of Niti Aayog's Governing Council began in New Delhi on Saturday with the main agenda of deliberating upon drought situation, farm distress and security concerns over Naxal-affected districts.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chairing the meeting, which is being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This is the first governing council meeting under the new Modi government.
"The goal to make India a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024, is challenging, but can surely be achieved. States should recognise their core competence and work towards raising GDP targets right from the district level, PM Narendra Modi said in his opening remarks at the meeting.
Among others attending the meet are Union ministers Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and Rajnath Singh.
The agenda for the meeting also includes rain-water harvesting, aspirational districts programme and structural reforms in the agriculture sector.
The council, the apex body of Niti Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of union territories, several union ministers and senior government officials.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy, Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath are among the heads of states attending the meeting.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, has refused to attend the meeting, saying it is "fruitless" as Niti Aayog has no financial powers to support state plans.
The Governing Council reviews the action taken on the agenda items of the previous meeting and deliberates upon the future developmental priorities.
The first meeting the Governing Council was held on February 8, 2015, at which the Prime Minister laid down the key mandates of Niti Aayog such as fostering cooperative federalism and addressing national issues through active participation of the states.
The second meeting on July 15, 2015 reviewed the progress made by the three sub-groups of chief ministers and the two task forces.
In the third meeting on April 23, 2017, Modi had pitched for conducting simultaneous elections of the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies and shifting to a January-December fiscal year.
The fourth meeting of the council on June 17, 2018 deliberated upon measures taken to double farmers' income and the progress of the government's flagship schemes.
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Jagan Reddy Becomes The Only Chief Minister To Get 5 Deputies In One Go
Jagan Mohan Reddy, who took power in Andhra Pradesh last week, will have a record five Deputy Chief Ministers. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister told his party lawmakers in a meeting this morning that he would have five deputies and a full 25-member cabinet, which would represent the aspirations of all communities.
The new ministers will take oath on Saturday.
The deputy Chief Ministers will represent Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, minorities and the Kapu communities, said leaders of Jagan Reddy's YSR Congress.
Jagan Reddy reportedly also told his legislators that the cabinet would predominantly comprise members from the weaker sections, "contrary to expectations that the Reddy community would get a lion's share".
Jagan Reddy has set for himself an ambitious target of earning for Andhra Pradesh the tag of 'best-governed state' within six months or one year. He said the cabinet would be reconstituted after a mid-term review of the government's performance.
In the previous government headed by N Chandrababu Naidu, there were two deputy Chief Ministers, one each from the Kapu and backward classes communities.
46-year-old Jagan Reddy led his party to a huge victory in the recent state and national elections in Andhra Pradesh.
The YSR Congress won 151 of the 175 seats in the state assembly, wiping out N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party. The party also won 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.
Chandrababu Naidu was the first chief minister of Andhra Pradesh after its bifurcation to carve out Telangana five years ago.
Jagan Reddy also wants to fulfill the expansive promises he made in the run-up to the polls. These include hiking pension for senior citizens, Rs. 12,500 per year as investment support to each farmer in the state, fee reimbursement for students up to Rs. 1.5 lakh per year, Rs. 15,000 to mothers who send children to school, free borewells and interest-free loans, free borewells, to eligible farmers and so on.
However, all this will cost several thousand crore rupees, at a time when Andhra Pradesh has a debt burden of Rs. 2.97 lakh crore, three times over what it was in 2014-15 when the revenue deficit stood at Rs. 16,200 crore.
Jagan Reddy says he will have a corruption-free administration and will stop wasteful expenditure by reviewing all projects. This includes dream capital Amaravati, where Mr Naidu had planned to spend over Rs. 50,000 crore rupees, Polavaram and several other irrigation and infrastructure projects.
For all these, the YSR Congress chief has already stopped all contracts where work has not been grounded. Work has stopped in every other project where not more than 25 per cent implementation has happened.
Jagan Reddy is hoping that his measures will bring in what he calls "Rajanna Rajyam", an adulatory reference to his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy's era.