Karnataka today witnessed political claims, blame game as two parties jostled for power.
Bengaluru: Karnataka was today nicknamed as Nataka Pradesh by social media folks as high drama unfolded with the BJP and the JD(S)-Congress combine meeting Governor Vajubhai Vala to stake claim to power.
Early in the morning, BJP chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa (BSY) prayed to the sun god to dispel darkness and went straight to the Raj Bhavan armed with a letter which said he was elected as the party’s legislative wing leader and wanted the Governor to invite him within 24 hours to form a government. A beaming BSY later told the media that he would take oath tomorrow. But there was no word from the Raj Bhavan.
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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.
Later, 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.
But the Congress issued a veiled threat to the Governor. DKS openly said that if the Governor invites the BJP, the Congress will challenge the decision in court.
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.
A feeble third option has emerged too. The Governor can say that he has doubts on the numbers of both the claimants and ask the House to elect its floor leader. That way the Governor can wash his hand off and remain clean.