Hung assembly: Will what happened in Goa and Manipur repeat in Karnataka?

Daijiworld Media Network - Bengaluru

Bengaluru, May 15: Back in 2017 when Congress was the single largest party to win Goa and Manipur elections, BJP managed to form the government through coalitions.

"In a hung assembly, if majority of the elected MLAs form a coalition, the Governor would be constitutionally right in inviting the leader of the majority coalition to form the government and prove their majority within a short period," Finance Minister and Minister of Corporate Affairs Arun Jaitley had then said.

However, now tables have turned and BJP may get the taste of their own medicine by losing the opportunity to form government in Karnataka, even though winning the majority with Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) joining hands. All eyes now lie on Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala.

With BJP with 104 seats and needing 112 to form majority, the options left are to either form coalition with JD(S) which looks bleak or poach MLA’s from JD(S) and the Congress.

However, now everything depends on the governor.

As per constitutional provision, the governor invites the single largest party, in this case the BJP, to form the government. However, there are instances that leaders of pre-poll and post-poll alliances were invited and Governor’s discretion can’t be questioned even by the court of law, say constitutional experts.

As per the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which were affirmed by a Constitution Bench of the SC in Rameshwar Prasad v Union of India in 2005, here are the options for the governor in case of a fractured mandate:

1. The governor can invite an alliance of parties that was formed prior to the elections.

2. The governor can invite the single largest party which stakes a claim to form the government with the support of others, including independents.

3. The governor can invite a post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government.

4. The governor can invite a post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a government and the remaining parties, including independents, supporting the government from outside.

Last year in Goa, the BJP got lesser seats but approached the governor first. The governor did not consult the Congress and gave BJP the green signal. The Congress is all set to do the same in Karnataka this time. The Congress had approached the Supreme Court which upheld the governor's decision.

Though Vala is a known confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he may find it difficult to accommodate the BJP this time. “If two parties join together and stake their claim before the governor, then being in the majority, they are bound to be called,” senior advocate and head of Congress’ legal cell K.C. Mittal told media.