Karnataka Governor Vajubhai R Vala on Friday appointed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA KG.Bopaiah as pro-tem speaker ahead of floor test tomorrow in the state assembly, breaking the convention of appointing the senior-most legislator. The Congress is set to challenge the decision in Supreme Court. Here’s a crash-course on the temporary position that is causing so much consternation.What is a pro-tem speaker? The pro-tem speaker is an operating and temporary speaker who conducts the work in centre or state legislatives. Generally, when state or Lok Sabha assemblies are elected, and the vote to appoint the speaker and deputy speaker is yet to take place, a pro-tem speaker is chosen to carry out activities till the permanent speaker is chosen.Also readAppointment of Bopaiah as Karnataka pro-tem speaker ‘encounter of the Constitution’: CongressIn a scenario, where both the speaker and deputy speaker posts lie vacant, then the tasks are carried out by a pro-tem speaker. A pro-tem speaker is usually the one who conducts the floor test. The Modi government had appointed Kamal Nath, nine-time Congress MP from Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh.However, normally a temporary position, KG Bopaiah’s appointment as pro-tem speaker has seen Congress raise the heckles, as the grand old party point out that the Bopaiah has a history of helping Yeddyurappa.Also readKarnataka: Siddramaiah in driver’s seat again for the coalition’s victory in the assemblyDoes the senior-most member have to be the pro-tem speaker? While it’s the convention to have the pro-tem speaker as an MLA/MP with the longest stint, there’s no set rule that’s engraved in the Constitution. In the Indian Polity, a popular book for civil service aspirants, M Laxmikanth writes: “Usually, the seniormost member is selected for this. The president himself administers oath to the speaker pro-tem. The speaker pro tem has all the powers of the speaker. He presides over the first sitting of the newly-elected Lok Sabha. His main duty is to administer oath to the new members. He also enables the house to elect a new speaker. When the new speaker is elected the pro tem ceases to exist.”Also readMeet Karnataka pro-tem speaker KG Bopaiah, who was chastised by SC for ‘saving’ Yeddyurappa govt in 2010The operating word here is ‘usually’ suggesting that the pro-tem speaker is picked at the discretion of the Governor. For example, KG Bopaiah who was the Karnataka Assembly Speaker from 2009 to 2013, was also the pro-tem speaker of the Karnataka assembly in 2008. He was picked by Governor Rameshwar Thakur. That precedent has been cited by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Twitter to defend the selection. One presumes it would be a big part of the defence strategy in SC too where Congress is challenging the Governor’s decision. What are the powers of the pro-team speaker and why is the Congress worried? Given Bopaiah’s history of suspending rebel MLAs to help BJP, Congress is worried he might do something similar again. He could also call for a voice vote instead of a division of votes which has been done before.In 2014, Maharashtra speaker had adopted the decision to adopt the motion expressing confidence in the Fadnavis government by a voice vote.This had set a precedent which had raised some questions about its validity. Former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee had said: “Had I been the Speaker, I would have called for a division of votes. It was the question of deciding whether the government has a majority or not.”The Devendra Fadnavis government managed to win a confidence motion by voice vote in what was seen as a shrewd game plan involving the BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP.Conventionally a division or actual voting is called for when a confidence motion is moved. This gives the government a moral and legal sanction to govern. But in this case Haribhau Bagde, who was elected speaker of the new assembly, called for a voice vote and apparently neither the Congress nor the Shiv Sena pressed for a division.Apparently, the Sena government had walked out of the House just before the confidence motion was passed and by the time they returned the confidence motion was passed. There are suggestions that the entire thing was staged-managed, including the Sena walking out.Who is KG Bopaiah?Bopaiah, is a well-known ally of Yeddyurappa. In October 2010, during outrage about the illegal mining scam, several MLAs from BJP had objected to the government under Yeddyurappa’s leadership. Bopaiah, in a controversial move, had disqualified 11 rebel BJP MLAs and 5 independents which helped the BJP government survive. His move had earned the ire of SC and had quashed his decision.The SC had said that it didn’t meet the tests of natural justice and fair play.A bench had said: “There was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the Disqualification Application filed by Mr Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the Governor to the Speaker to conduct a Vote of Confidence in the Government headed by Mr Yeddyurappa. It would appear that such a course of action was adopted by the Speaker on October 10, 2010, since the Vote of Confidence on the Floor of the House was slated for October 12, 2010. The element of hot haste is also evident in the action of the Speaker in this regard as well. The procedure adopted by the Speaker seems to indicate that he was trying to meet the time schedule set by the Governor for the trial of strength in the Assembly and to ensure that the Appellants and the other independent MLAs stood disqualified prior to the date on which the Floor Test was to be held.”With this action, Bopaiah had brought down the strength in the 224-member Assembly to 208. The ruling party strength has been reduced to 106 from 117 and the opposition Congress and JDS have a combined strength of 101 (Congress 73 and JDS 28).The Supreme Court subsequently reversed the decision and castigated Bopaiah. Congress would be wary of such similar acts of omission and commission by Bopaiah, which can help Yeddyurappa survive the storm. Congress reacts to pro-tem speaker appointmentReacting to the decision, Dinesh Gundu Rao, Karnataka Congress Work President called it ‘shocking’.He wrote on Twitter: “Shocking decision by the Hon’ble Governor..Constitutional Convention says the seniormost, in this case RV Deshpande should’ve been named. Also, Supreme Court had passed structures against the conduct of KG Bopiah as Speaker. Sad to see Vajubhai Valaji behaving like an agent of BJP.”Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “By convention, the senior most speaker of the house is elected as protem speaker. In this case, it is RV Deshpande, but the BJP has sadly asked for a man who’s not senior most.” Congress national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also experessed shock at the decision, saying that the SC had cast aspersions on Bopaiah and called him ‘tainted’.Randeep Surjewala said: “The Governor Vajubhai Vala has once again launched an encounter on the Constitution by appointing KG Bopaiah as pro-team speaker instead of the senior most MLA.”The Congress is likely to challenge in court the appointment of BJP MLA K G Bopaiah as the pro-team speaker of the Karnataka assembly ahead of tomorrow’s vote of confidence, according to party sources.Top Congress leaders met soon after Governor Vajubhai Vala appointed the BJP MLA as the pro tem speaker, and decided that the matter should be challenged in court, the sources said. The Supreme Court today ordered a floor test in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 PM tomorrow, drastically slashing the 15-day window given by the Governor to BJP Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa to prove majority.
Shiv Sena

Maharashtra

Madhya Pradesh

Lok Sabha

Kamal Nath

Somnath Chatterjee

House

bharatiya janata party

Randeep Surjewala

Devendra Fadnavis

Modi

Dinesh Gundu Rao

Chhindwara

Rameshwar Thakur

GK Bopaiah

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Karnataka drama: What is a pro-tem speaker and why is the Congress worried about KG Bopaiah?