Karnataka: Congress calls EC "agent of BJP"
Bengaluru, Sep 27: The Congress in Karnataka on Friday said the Election Commission was functioning like an "agent of BJP" and termed its move to defer bypolls to 15 assembly segments in the State till the Supreme Court decides on the case of disqualified Congress-JD(S) legislators as "arbitrary."
In the country's history,this is the first time the Election Commission (EC) has cancelled elections after issuing notification without giving any reason, the party claimed. "This proves EC is compromised and is acting to the benefit of BJP & Disqualified MLAs," it tweeted. The party said it would write to the EC and ask on what grounds it cancelled the election.
"Why this arbitrary decision? EC is acting like an agent of BJP," it said.
"Election Commission has compromised itself, it has lost its autonomy, people have lost trust in it. I make a serious allegation that the Election Commission has not conducted itself in a non-partisan manner," state Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao told reporters here. Without any stay from the court or grounds the commission has postponed the election, he said.
"Election commission has stared working like an agent of a political party, we condemn and question it.The commission has to clarify the grounds of postponement of election. It is shame that the EC that is supposed to be independent is today acting as an agency of a political party," he added.
The EC had told the apex court on Thursday that it would defer the upcoming bypolls to 15 Assembly constituencies in Karnataka till the top court finally decides the pleas filed by 17 disqualified MLAs of the state challenging their disqualification. The poll panel had last week announced bypolls to 15 Assembly seats in Karnataka and had said voting would be held on October 21 and counting of votes on October 24.
The EC's submission came after a bench headed by Justice N V Ramana said it would be "better" if the pleas filed by these disqualified MLAs were decided finally as virtually two-third arguments in the matter were already over. Elections are governed under article 324 of the constitution and Representation of the People Act, and clause 57 states that elections can be adjourned only in case of riots, open violence, natural calamity, Rao said.
"It says nothing about powers of the EC to arbitrarily adjourn polls after issuing a notification. In this case, Supreme Court has not stayed the disqualification, nor has issued verdict in favour of disqualified MLA," he said. Any cancellation or abrogation of polls can happen only with the consent of the President,he added.
The EC had earlier told the Supreme Court that former Karnataka Speaker's order disqualifying 17 MLAs from the Assembly cannot deprive them of their right to contest the bypolls for 15 constituencies in the state. The EC had then sought from the apex court, which agreed to examine the pleas of the MLAs seeking stay on disqualification and for contesting the by-elections, that the bypolls should not be stayed. Stating that the EC was not involved in any way in this case, but it intervened stating that election should not be stayed as notification has been issued, Rao said the commission's reason to "enter" the case was to see to that elections are not postponed.
Among the 15 constituencies going for polls, 12 were represented by Congress and 3 by JD(S). Absence and resignation of 17 Congress-JD(S) MLAs during the trust vote had led to the collapse of the H D Kumaraswamy headed coalition government in July, and helped BJP to come to power.
After examining the petition moved by leadership of both parties, the then assembly Speaker Ramesh Kumar had disqualified 17 Congress and JD(S) MLAs under the anti-defection law, which they have challenged in the Supreme Court. The then Speaker had ruled that those disqualified, cease to be MLAs with immediate effect till the expiry of the 15th assembly (in 2023).