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“If BJP is not able to elect a speaker from its ranks, the floor test will prove futile,” says Congress MLA VS Ugrappa. The BJP government needs the support of at least seven more MLAs to ensure the election of a speaker of its choice, which now seems difficult.
Conventionally, the longest serving House member is nominated as pro tem speaker, whose role is limited to administering oath to new MLAs and conducting the election of the full-time speaker.
Congressman R V Deshpande and BJP’s Umesh Katti – both eight-term MLAs – are among contenders for pro tem speaker. However, BJP sources said the names of ex-speakers Jagadish Shettar and K G Bopaiah and ex-minister Visveshwar Hedge Kageri are also doing the rounds.
Ex-legislative council chairman B L Shankar said the pro tem speaker can only perform a regular speaker’s duties until one takes over. “But the law is not clear on whether the pro tem speaker can oversee the floor test,” he added.
Congress fears BJP is planning to bulldoze its way through the floor test with the help of the pro tem speaker. Getting some opposition MLAs to abstain in the floor test is said to be one of BJP’s strategies and the speaker has reasonable discretion while dealing with complaints against such MLAs under the anti-defection law. A testimony to the speaker’s powers is a case of disqualification against seven JD(S) legislators during the previous Congress rule. The speaker then, K B Koliwad, did not disqualify them for cross-voting in favour of a Congress candidate in an RS poll despite an HC order.
BJP, however, is optimistic. “Several JD(S) and Congress members are willing to switch sides. So, it is important that someone from BJP becomes speaker,” a party member said.