BJP gets first chance to prove its majority in the House
After a long time, the media had a field day with government formation in a state. Who will sit on the Treasury benches in Bengaluru’s Vidhan Soudha seems decided for now with the Governor having invited BJP legislature party leader BS Yeddyurappa to prove his majority and given him 15 days to so. Politics is a strange animal, in 1996 the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat led by Keshubhai Patel was brought down by a group of rebels led by Shankarsinh Vaghela supported by the Congress. The leader of the state unit of the BJP was a gentleman by the name of Vajubhai Vala. Today, Vala is the Governor of Karnataka as the jostling for government formation between the BJP and the Congress — Janata Dal Secular (JDS) after the recent election in the southern state did not throw up a certain winner. While both sides are citing precedent to bolster their cases, notably the case brought by a former Chief Minister of Karnataka, S.R Bommai against the Union of India in 1994. This case examined several issues around the imposition of Article 356, that is, President’s Rule in a state after the dismissal of a state government by the Central Government. The Bommai judgement curbed the rampant misuse of Article 356 by the Central Government, an act which had become a matter of policy for the Congress. It also laid down some guidelines for state Governors to follow when calling for a government to prove its majority on the floor of a legislative assembly. In the case of Karnataka, 2018 both sides are citing this judgement to bolster their cases, but the fact is that the judgement gives the governor a huge amount of leverage when it comes to calling someone to form a government and prove their majority on the floor of the house if no one party or pre-poll alliance has a clear majority. It always was Vala’s call.
It appears that the Congress has learned their lessons from the fiascos in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya where they were slow off the mark even being the single-largest party after the elections. They have managed to keep their flock together for the time being and have even booked resorts outside Bengaluru to keep all their newly-elected legislators in one place before any voting on the floor of the house and have gotten their opportunist ally, the JDS to do the same. Indeed, they acted like the BJP did in Goa and but could nor parade all their legislators in front of the Governor. Now, it’s up to the BJP to try and persuade/cajole a few of these legislators to defect, abstain or resign if they have to win the no-confidence motion the Opposition will move. As such, this is an unfortunate election in the sense that it did not throw up a clear winner, despite laws that prevent horse-trading and the like, loyalties can be bought and sold for the ultimate prize of power. The fact is that the BJP might have done extremely well in Karnataka but they did not win. If they can form a Government may be an unsteady one which can be held hostage by temperamental legislators. A Government in place, all said and done, is still a Government. That is the bottom line. And the mandate was for the BJP more than for the Congress or JDS for sure. But, even assuming they cannot keep their flock together and Yeddyurappa proves his majority on the floor of the House, the Congress should not be too disappointed. After all, by being proactive in reaching out to Deve Gowda and supporting HD Kumaraswamy for Chief Minister, they have shown potential allies that they can be a trusted partner in an alliance even if they don’t have the top spot. Meanwhile, all sides will be preparing for court battles over the next few days. That much is for sure.