Supreme Court has Prevented Horse Trading by Advancing Floor Test: Karnataka Episode Should be a Lesson to Governors

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According to latest judicial pronouncements, if an alliance of two parties gets a majority, its leader should be invited to form the government. It hardly matters if the alliance is pre-poll or post-poll. The principle that single largest party, whether it commands a majority of not, be invited to form the government and prove its majority within a specified time, has become outdated. Experience of inviting the largest party has not been happy. It results in horse trading and offering of crores of rupees to the MLAs to defect to the party trying to cobble a majority. Alliance leader Kumaraswamy has alleged that his MLAs were offered 100 crores each and ministerial berth to cross over to the BJP side. Here’s a report, for Different Truths.

Finally, the Supreme Court has pronounced its verdict; the one-day Chief Minister B S has to prove his majority in a floor test on May 19 at 4 PM. The pro-tem speaker will conduct the floor test. The apex court’s verdict has closed the possibility of a defection of MLAs of Congress- JD(S) combine to the BJP. Once again, the judiciary has saved the democracy and it should be applauded.

The decision of Karnataka Governor Vijubhai Vala to invite BJP leader Yeddyurappa to form the government, even though his party fell short of a majority, is expected. The 79-year old Governor is an old RSS hand and when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of the state and presented budget a record 18 times. He was also the speaker of the assembly.

That was why Modi decided to shift him to Karnataka as Governor which was ruled by the Congress. Expecting fair play and impartiality from Vala would have been foolhardy. His allegiance to BJP is more than the by which he took an oath. A leader, whether he belongs to the Congress or the BJP, ceases to be party man when he takes up gubernatorial post. This basic principle has been conveniently forgotten by Vala and persons like him.

According to latest judicial pronouncements, if an alliance of two parties gets a majority, its leader should be invited to form the government. It hardly matters if the alliance is pre-poll or post-poll. The principle that single largest party, whether it commands a majority of not, be invited to form the government and prove its majority within a specified time, has become outdated. Experience of inviting the largest party has not been happy. It results in horse trading and offering of crores of rupees to the MLAs to defect to the party trying to cobble a majority. Alliance leader Kumaraswamy has alleged that his MLAs were offered Rs. 100 crores each and ministerial berth to cross over to the BJP side. One wonders if the charge is correct or not but, in the past, huge amounts were spent to lure the legislators.

In Karnataka, throwing all norms to winds, Governor Vala has given Yeddyurappa unusually long time of 15 days to prove his majority. With the BJP ruling the centre and many states, it has all the and money at its command to wean away MLAs of Congress—JD(S) alliance. How long leaders of the alliance can protect them? By reducing the floor test period from 15 days to one day the Supreme has closed all options of floor crossing.

Now, the Supreme Court has prevented horse trading of legislators. Congress and JD(S) alliance leaders had petitioned jointly before apex court seeking quashing of the governor’s decision to invite Yeddyurappa-led BJP with 104 MLAs to form the government.

As it became clear that the Governor is all set to invite Yeddurappa to form the government, the Congress fielded P.Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Vikek Tankha to question the move. The BJP hit back with Ravishankar Prasad addressing the media.

While Chidambaram cited the recent Supreme Court judgment in Goa case to back its argument, Prasad quoted the recommendations of the Sarkaria and M M Punchi Commission to argue that the single largest party should be called first to form the government if there was no pre-poll alliance to stake the claim.

Chidambaram said that by inviting Yeddyurappa the Governor was walking on a perilous course which is illegal. The Congress cited the Goa case where the court upheld Goa governor Mridula Sinha’s invitation to the BJP leader to form the government even though the Congress emerged as the single largest party. While rejecting the Congress objection on March 14, 2017, the apex court had ordered a floor test to be held in two days.

The Karnataka poll results are a lesson to the Congress that it alone it cannot defeat the BJP. Congress President Rahul and senior leaders of the party should explore the possibility of an alliance with the regional party. In U.P, it should be BSP-SP and Congress. In the states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh where the party is comparatively strong, it has to accommodate BSP and SP.

The Congress must accept that it has been voted out and should refrain from exploiting a fractured verdict to retain office. Ironically, the Congress and JD(S), in their bid to seek power, may have taken a cue from the BJP, which despite failing to even finish as the single largest party in Goa and Manipur, cobbled together smaller parties and independents, and with help of friendly governors, formed governments in both the states. The Karnataka verdict forecloses the BJP’s option to achieve the numbers if the Congress and JD(S) stick together. Had the two parties entered into a pre-poll alliance, they would have been ruling Karnataka. This is what Mamata Banerjee had pointed out.

Congress also needs to be more flexible. It would do well to form alliances across the board with regional outfits, leveraging the fact that it doesn’t look as threatening or intimidating an ally as BJP. This will provide it necessary ammunition to put up a bigger against BJP in 2019.

Harihar Swarup

©IPA Service

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