The resolution of Karnataka’s political-legal drama may well rest on a letter the state’s newly sworn-in chief minister, BS Yeddyurappa, sent to governor Vajubhai Vala while staking claim to form the government.
During the extraordinary midnight hearing in the Supreme Court on Thursday, the main argument of Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) petitioners, challenging Vala’s decision to invite Yeddyurappa to take oath, was that while the BJP was the single largest party in the state assembly, it did not have majority support.
“Calling a person who has support of 104 MLAs as opposed to Congress-JDS alliance of 116 MLAs and then giving the person 15 days is adding insult to injury by the governor,” argued senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi.
He suggested that the governor may have been misled by Yeddyurappa’s letter, claiming to have the support of 111 legislators.
“BJP cannot go from 104 to 111 unless there is defection – and that is prohibited,” added Singhvi.
But did the letter say the BJP had 111 MLAs, he was asked.
Singhvi admitted he did not have the letter.
The three-judge bench that heard the matter expressed surprise.
“We do not know what kind of majority Yeddyurappa has claimed. Unless we see that letter of support, we cannot speculate,” said Justice SA Bobde, one of the three judges on the bench.
Lawyers representing the BJP did not volunteer information on the letter in court.
The court refused to stay Yeddyurappa’s swearing in on Thursday but asked for the letter he wrote to the governor to be produced on Friday. “After hearing the parties, we are of the opinion that it is necessary to peruse the letters dated 15th May, 2018 and 16th May, 2018 submitted by the respondent No.3 to the Governor which find a mention in the communication dated 16th May, 2018 of the Hon’ble Governor. We request the learned Attorney General and/or respondent No.3 to produce these letters on the next date of hearing.”
The office of the governor and the state BJP unit refused to share a copy of the letter from Yeddyurappa .
In turn, the BJP has alleged that the Congress forged signatures of many of its legislators while submitting party’s list of MLAs to the Governor. Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said one should wonder how the Congress could collect the signatures of all the MLAs even before they arrived in Bengaluru to attend the Congress Legislature Party meeting. “Forging signatures is not new to the party…In Karnataka, they have resorted to their age old practice. The Congress is synonymous with the word forgery.”
Yeddyurappa’s future may now hinge on the very letter that enabled him to take oath on Thursday.