Midnight twist to K’taka drama, Yeddy to be CM tomorrow

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Governor invites Yeddy to take oath as CM, Cong knocks at SC doors.

Never short of high-voltage drama, the Karnataka political scenario took a strange and sudden twist late in the night when Governor Vajubhal Vala invited BJP legislative party leader B S Yeddyurappa to take oath as chief minister tomorrow at 9 am. Strange on two counts: the communique was not put out by the Raj Bhavan but the letter was released by the BJP; secondly, the Governor has given a very generous 15 days’ time for Yeddyurappa to prove his majority.

The Congress in Delhi lost no time at knocking at the doors of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with party leader and legal expert Manu Singhvi requesting for an urgent hearing preferably tonight itself.

Political Claims, Blame, Game on in KarnatakaThe JD(S)-Congress combine here fretted and fumed and slammed the move of the Governor calling it murder of democracy in darkness. An angry JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy flayed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for double standards and said the 15 days given by the Governor is a clear indication that the BJP will `buy’ his MLAs.

The Governor is within his rights to invite the leader of the largest single party, but the question is why at night and why the hurry. And, once again, why did the Raj Bhavan not release the communique.

Political Claims, Blame, Game on in KarnatakaThe Governor seems to have taken the decision in the morning itself. The cat was let out of the bag by  Yeddyurappa (BSY) who had met the Governor in the morning. Soon after the meeting, Yeddyurappa confidently said he would be sworn in as CM tomorrow.

Later the BJP put out a tweet stating the BSY would take oath tomorrow at 9 am. The tweet was subsequently deleted.

In Karnataka, where political drama can change complexion by the minute, it is anybody’s guess as to what would happen in 15 days

Legal experts say that when a political situation like the one in Karnataka is fluid and uncertain, the leader invited to form a government should prove his majority in the shortest possible time, preferably within a week. This is to prevent horse-trading. In Karnataka, where political drama can change complexion by the minute, it is anybody’s guess as to what would happen in 15 days.

Later, addressing the media in Delhi, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the Governor’s move as murder of the Constitution and that an illegal government will assume office in Bengaluru.

BJP leader Basavaraj Bommai defended the governor saying that he had just replied to Yeddyurappa’s letter wherein he had said that he was the leader of the single largest party. The Governor was not bound to issue a communique.

Bommai also said the Governor had consulted various legal experts before inviting Yeddyruappa.

But questions of protocol and propriety were raised as dignitaries like the Chief Justice, former chief ministers etc have to be formally invited for the swearing in. Do such invites go to them at midnight, wondered an expert.

Earlier in the evening, chief ministerial candidate of the JD(S)-Congress combine H D Kumaraswamy (HDK) and former chief minister Siddarmaiah, backed by a troop of 117 MLAs, marched to the Raj Bhavan bringing Bengaluru to a screeching and screaming halt. The Governor refused to meet the troop stating that the Raj Bhavan was no parade ground and allowed only the leaders to submit their claim.

Political Claims, Blame, Game on in KarnatakaLater, HDK claimed that he had the numbers and the unconditional support of the Congress. A nervous Siddaramaiah chose to remain silent and allowed senior Congress leader D K Shivakumar (DKS) to do all the talking. DKS claimed that all the Congress MLAs were with the party. But when told that some MLAs were missing, he said they are all on the way. It looked rather strange that five MLAs should take two days to reach Bengaluru. One MLA has suddenly gone missing and one independent MLA switched sides to the BJP.

Fearing poaching, the Congress and the JD(S) took all its MLAs to Eagleton Golf Resort on the outskirts of Bengaluru. This is the same resort where Congress MLAs of Gujarat were housed prior to Rajya Sabha polls featuring Ahmed Patel.

Meanwhile, the Governor, a close friend of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, spent most of his time consulting legal experts and at the end of the day, found two strong opinions emerging. One said that he is bound to invite the largest single party to form a government. If that party fails to muster support, he can than give a chance to the second largest party or a post poll combine.

The second opinion flows, ironically, directly from the BJP-led NDA’s courtroom victory in the Bihar President’s rule case in 2006.  In this case, the constitution bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that the governor has no option before him but to invite any party or alliance, either prepoll or post-poll, to form the government once he was satisfied that it commanded majority support in the assembly.

But the operative part is that the governor must be satisfied and this is a subjective clause.  

In the Bihar case, the apex court had castigated governor Buta Singh for recommending dissolution of the Bihar assembly because he feared that the pre-poll alliance of JD(U) and BJP under the banner of NDA, which had secured 92 seats in the 243-member House, may break RJD (75 MLAs) and LJP (29 MLAs) in order to muster a majority.

Fine-tuning the landmark S R Bommai case of March1994, the full bench of the Supreme Court in 2006 had said, “There is nothing wrong in post-poll adjustments and when ideological similarity weighs with any political party to support another political party though there was no pre-poll alliance, there is nothing wrong in it.

“If a political party, with the support of other political party or other MLAs, stakes claim to form a government and satisfies the governor about its majority to form a stable government, the governor cannot refuse formation of government and override the majority claim because of his subjective assessment that the majority was cobbled by illegal and unethical means. No such power has been vested with the governor. Such a power would be against the democratic principles of majority rule. Governor is not an autocratic political ombudsman. If such a power is vested in the governor and/or the President, the consequences can be horrendous.”

The Congress in Karnataka is, ironically, drawing sustenance from a case that the BJP had won and they had lost way back in 2006.

The Governor chose to go by the first legal opinion by inviting the leader of the single largest party.