2 JJP MLAs support BJP in Haryana, upset Opposition applecart

Chandigarh :It is an open war in the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) with two of its MLAs coming out openly in support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and affirming their loyalty to Chief Minister Nayab Singh Saini as also to his government.

The two JJP MLAs, Jogi Ram Sihag and Ram Niwas Surjakhera, who had called on Saini earlier this week, pledged their support to his government that at present has 41 MLAs. “We have offered to stand with the BJP given development work the government has carried out in my constituency. There is no question of going back on this support. We are with the BJP,” said Surjakhera. “No party whip can stop me from extending support to the BJP,” he while speaking with The Tribune.

The JJP has already complained against these two MLAs to the Haryana Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Gian Chand Gupta, about anti-party activities during the elections and demanded their expulsion.

The Saini government now has the support of 45 MLAs in the 88-member House. Saini was sworn in as MLA yesterday after he won the Karnal byelection. In the House, the BJP now has 41 MLAs of its own. It also has the support of one Independent MLA, Nayan Pal Rawat, and one MLA of the Haryana Lokhit Party, Gopal Kanda, and the two JJP MLAs.

The House strength will go down to 87 once the Congress MLA Varun Chaudhry, elected as Lok Sabha MP in the recently-concluded election, resigns from his Assembly seat. He has to do so within 15 days of being elected, according to the rules.

This means that the BJP will require 44 MLAs for a majority while it already has the support of 45 MLAs.

Also, the Congress which had a strength of 30 MLAs in the House will be down to 29 with Chaudhry’s exit.

With Chaudhry on his way out and two JJP MLAs offering support to the BJP, the numbers in the Opposition camp will not only be reduced but will also become less than that those in the ruling party.

In addition to its 29 MLAs (after Chaudhry’s resignation), the Congress has the support of three Independent MLAs while the JJP has offered support to the Congress. Eight of the 10 JJP MLAs, some of who could ‘rebel’ against the party in case of a trust vote; one INLD MLA and one other Independent MLA, presently constitute the Opposition, along with the Congress. This takes the number in the Opposition camp to 42 which is less than the number of MLAs with the government at this point in time.

Sources said an assured BJP is contemplating a floor test in the monsoon session of the Haryana Vidhan Sabha to prove its majority.

While it has the required numbers needed for a majority, it will take a call on whether it would take the support of the two JJP MLAs in the floor test or ask them to resign.

In the case of their resignation, the number of MLAs required to prove a majority will come down to 43, a strength the BJP already has on its own. This will also avoid attracting the provisions of the anti-defection law.

However, even in case defection proceedings are initiated against the two MLAs, it is unlikely that a decision will come within the next four months since the Speaker has to decide the matter after hearing all the parties.

The Assembly elections are due in Haryana in October this year and these proceedings will end once the term of the House comes to an end.

However, sources said there was more likelihood of their resigning from the House.

In the 90-member Vidhan Sabha, two members—Manohar Lal Khattar after he was replaced as Chief Minister and named the BJP’s Karnal candidate, and Independent MLA Ranjit Singh who joined the BJP and was fielded by the party from Hisar after the Lok Sabha poll was announced—resigned as MLAs. Congress MLA Varun Chaudhry is expected to step down as MLA within a fortnight of the declaration of his result. Independent MLA Rakesh Daultabad died following a heart attack. However, Saini has been inducted into the House as an MLA.

Legal view on Speaker’s authority

· The Speaker cannot be directed to expedite proceedings against an MLA. The role of the Speaker is integral to the legislative process, and the authority vested in this position by the Constitution includes significant discretionary power. Experts believe judicial interference in this context will violate the principle of separation of powers, which is fundamental to the Indian Constitution.

· Several Supreme Court rulings have reinforced the autonomy of the Speaker in legislative matters. In the case of ‘Kihoto Hollohan versus Zachillhu’, the Supreme Court held that while the Speaker’s decisions under the Tenth Schedule (anti-defection law) are subject to judicial review, courts should not intervene unless the decision is mala fide or unconstitutional.

· In `Rajendra Singh Rana versus Swami Prasad Maurya’, the Supreme Court acknowledged the quasi-judicial role of the Speaker in matters of disqualification under the anti-defection law. However, it maintained that the Speaker’s discretion in these proceedings should be free from judicial directives.