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Karnataka Battle In Top Court, Rebel Lawmakers Told To Meet Speaker Today

Ten Karnataka lawmakers who allege their resignations haven't been accepted in an attempt to help the ruling Congress-Janata Dal Secular coalition in the state flew to Bengaluru this evening after the Supreme Court ordered them to meet the Speaker.

The rebel lawmakers were asked to appear before Speaker Ramesh Kumar at 6 pm. The court ordered police protection for them and said the Speaker must decide today on whether the resignations stand.

Hours later, the Speaker also petitioned against the order and asked the court for time to examine the resignations, to decide whether they were coerced or voluntary. Mr Kumar said it was his constitutional duty to verify the resignations and "such an inquiry cannot be completed forthwith or latest by 12 midnight today."

"There was no need for them (MLAs who resigned) to approach the Court (for a direction) that I should meet them. They could have willingly come here. That itself shows the whole thing is murky," he told reporters today.

The lawmakers, who flew from Bengaluru to Mumbai on the weekend after submitting their resignations, accuse the Speaker of sitting on their letters to help save the Congress-JDS government and to give its negotiators time to regain numbers.

The Speaker, who says he was not in office when the resignation letters came in, examined them on Tuesday and rejected eight, asking the lawmakers to meet him on July 17.

Representing the lawmakers, former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said the Speaker "has made himself scarce, he is not doing what he is supposed to do."

Mr Rohatgi requested the court to enable the lawmakers to appear before the Speaker. The Karnataka coalition, which came to power in May last year, is on the brink after 18 resignations since last week.

A group of 11 rebel lawmakers resigned on Saturday and five more have quit since then. The Speaker has not accepted any of the letters; if he does, the coalition will instantly dip below the half-way mark and the BJP can flaunt a majority.

But as he received two more resignations on Wednesday, Mr Kumar said the lawmakers should meet him next Wednesday, along with the others.

Despite the breather because of the Speaker's deadline, a desperate Congress has been unable to coax the rebels back into the fold despite the efforts of its troubleshooter DK Shivakumar.

The 10 rebels who went to the Supreme Court yesterday were staying at a five-star hotel in Mumbai before flying to Bengaluru today. Seeking more security, they had refused to meet Mr Shivakumar, who was stopped by the Mumbai Police from entering the hotel on Wednesday.

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