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Karnataka Polls: What Can the Governor Do In Case of a Fractured Mandate?

It's been a closely fought battle between the Congress and the BJP. But who has the upper hand?

Karnataka Polls: What Can the Governor Do In Case of a Fractured Mandate?

It’s been a topsy-turvy day for all those closely monitoring the Karnataka elections.

Early trends saw the Bharatiya Janata Party pulling ahead in the battle to form the next government in Karnataka, but over the course of a few hours, the tide has seemingly shifted with the Congress offering its support to the Janata Dal (Secular).

Even though the BJP is the single largest party, it does not have the requisite numbers to form the government. In this 222-seat election contest, a party needs 111 seats to form the government.

With the JD (S) accepting the Congress’ support to form the next government, and if current trends stay the same, both parties together have the requisite numbers to form the government.

It’s now over to the Governor, who can invite any party/parties that have the requisite numbers to form the government.

However, in the Constitution, there are no specific guidelines about who the Governor should invite to stake their claim for government formation in the event of a hung legislature, where no single party or pre-poll alliance has the requisite numbers.

Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala (Source: Facebook)
Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala (Source: Facebook)

In the last Goa Assembly elections, the BJP formed the government, despite the Congress winning the largest number of seats. Angered by the Governor’s decision to invite the BJP-stitched alliance to form the government, the Congress took the matter to the Supreme Court arguing that as the single largest party, the Governor should have called upon the Congress to form the government.

The court turned down the Congress plea stating that the party was at fault for not staking its claim form the government. In other words, the Congress had not presented any proof to the Governor that it had the necessary numbers to form the government.

If we are citing convention on the subject of a fractured mandate, then one does not have to look any further than the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had certified in the Rameshwar Prasad vs Union of India case in 2005.

The Commission lists out the steps (in descending order) the Governor should follow regarding who he/she can invite to form the government in the event of a fractured mandate.

1) Invite the alliance of parties established before the polls.

2) The single largest party, if it can show the requisite numbers with the support of other parties and/or independents.

3) A post-poll coalition formed by two or more parties coming together to form and join the government.

4) Finally, a post-poll collation of parties including independents, with some coming together to form the government, while others issue outside support.

If none of the above options bear fruit, President’s Rule is imposed for six months before fresh elections are called. The ball is now in the Governor’s court.

(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)

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