With the SR Bommai judgement clearly setting a precedent, the BJP today will have to prove its numbers in the Assembly through a floor test. In a floor test, the Chief Minister invited by the Governor to form the government is asked to prove his majority in the Assembly.
In such a scenario, the CM is required to move a vote of confidence and win a majority only among those present and voting in these proceedings. If the confidence motion fails the ‘pass the numbers test,’ which in Karnataka is 111, the CM has to resign.
There is also the potential of a composite floor test if more than one person stakes his/her claim to form the government, in the event of a hung assembly. In such a scenario, the governor can call for a special session to find out who possesses the majority.
Before the floor test in the event of a fractured mandate, the pro-tem speaker must administer the oath of office to all elected MLAs. If these lawmakers vote before taking the oath of office, they can suffer dismissal under Article 104. In Karnataka, this would be step one.
Voting then happens in two particular ways:
1) Voice vote: Lawmakers respond orally, i.e. through ‘Ayes’ and ‘Nays. However, this has proven to be controversial in situations where the margins are very small.
2) Division vote: Legislators cast their vote with the aid of electronic gadgets, slips or in a ballot box. When it comes to a ballot box, the voting process (the MLA’s identity) is usually kept secret, something which the Supreme Court rejected yesterday, despite the BJP’s request.
One mitigating factor could be that the Karnataka Assembly does not have an electronic voting system, and thus the pro-tem Speaker may most likely employ a head count method. In fact, the Secretary of the Legislature Secretariat said on Friday that MLAs would be asked to physically stand up, reports The Quint. Those in favour and against the motion will have to stand up when asked.
“The pro-tem Speaker could also employ the roll call method. Here, the House is divided into blocks. The Assembly Secretary then does a roll call of members, block by block, recording each vote. The Secretary also records those MLAs who choose to remain neutral,” reports The Quint.
Whoever has the majority can form the government. If there is a tie, the speaker can cast his/her vote. In the case of Karnataka, the BJP can win if certain Congress or JD(S) legislators vote against their party. These MLAs can also abstain from voting or not be present at all, thus reducing the required majority to form the government from the current 111.
However, if they do any of the above actions, they will be disqualified under the anti-defection law. For these lawmakers to escape anti-defection, two-thirds of the party must defect. If not present during voting, these MLAs will have to justify their absence citing a genuine personal emergency.
(Edited by Gayathri Mishra)