Karnataka Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar on Tuesday expressed displeasure over near-empty treasury benches as the House took up the debate on Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy's motion of confidence for the fourth day running.
The treasury benches were occupied only by a couple of legislators when the House, which is expected to complete the trust vote process by Tuesday, met in the morning after a prolonged drama that last almost till midnight on Monday.
"Should this be the fate of the speaker or the assembly," Kumar asked minister Priyank Kharge. "You will lose credibility, leave alone strength," he told him.
The absence of legislators from the coalition gave the BJP enough ammunition.
BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa said the government had exposed itself and asked where the ruling coalition MLAs were.
"In spite of not having the numbers, you are continuing shamelessly. You should be ashamed," he told the treasury benches.
His colleague, senior BJP leader Jagadish Shettar, added that Kumaraswamy was said to be in his chamber clearing the files at the last minute instead of being in the House.
"People are disgusted. You are a black mark on the assembly. You have taken the House lightly," he said.
K S Eshwarappa, also of the BJP, said the "MLAs are as good as their chief minister", and added that he suspected "this is nothing but delaying tactics."
His colleague Basavaraj Bommai dubbed it a "zero government".
The speaker made it clear Monday night before adjourning the House that voting on the confidence motion would be completed by 6 pm on Tuesday and would not be deferred under any circumstances.
The ruling JD(S)-Congress coalition members had forced the speaker to adjourn the House, despite repeated reminders by him that they had given a commitment to complete the trust vote process on Monday itself.
As the House debated the motion amid noisy scenes, the Congress made its intentions clear right from the beginning, saying that voting should be deferred as the apex court was hearing the pleas by two Independent MLAs on the issue of the trust vote.
The Supreme Court is hearing Tuesday a fresh plea of two Independent Karnataka MLAs, seeking holding of the floor test "forthwith" in the state Assembly on the trust motion.
The MLAs who withdrew support to the ruling coalition had sought a direction to the Kumaraswamy government to conduct the floor test on or before 5 pm on Monday.
The ruling coalition defied the two deadlines set by Governor Vajubhai Vala -- to complete the process by 1.30 pm on Friday and later by the end of the day.
The proceedings were adjourned till Monday after the speaker extracted a commitment from the government that the process would be completed by Monday itself.
While 16 MLAs -- 13 from the Congress and three from JD(S) -- have resigned, independent MLAs R Shankar and H Nagesh have withdrawn their support to the coalition government, pushing the government to the precipice.
One Congress member, Ramalinga Reddy, retracted from his decision to resign, saying he would support the government.
The ruling combine's strength is 117-- Congress 78, JD(S) 37, BSP 1 and nominated 1, besides the speaker.
With the support of two independents, the BJP has 107 MLAs in the 225-member House, including the nominated MLA and speaker.
If the resignations of the 15 MLAs (12 from Congress and three from JD-S) are accepted or if they stay away, the ruling coalition's tally will plummet to 101, reducing the government to a minority.