From results to resort politics: how Karnataka formed its government

Legal experts divided over Karnataka Governor’s invitation to Yeddyurappa to form government

By inviting the BJP to form the government, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala chose the single largest party over the post-poll alliance of Congress-JD(S).

Legal experts are divided over the question whether the Governor violated the law by choosing the BJP over the numerically stronger post-election alliance of Congress and JD (S).

After all, it was only in April 2017 that the Supreme Court ordered a floor test despite the Congress being the single largest party in Goa. Governor Mridula Sinha did not invite the Congress first to form the government in Goa, instead chose the BJP alliance. 

Mr. Vala did the reverse in Karnataka. He ignored the post-poll alliance to give first preference to the single largest party, the BJP.

Former Supreme Court judge, Justice K.T. Thomas, said it is “political ethics” for the Governor to first invite the single largest party to form a “stable government”. 

Justice Thomas refers to the Bommai judgment of 1994 to support his argument. The Bommai judgment endorses the Sarkaria Commission report of the 1988. The Commission recommends that in case of no pre-poll alliance among parties, the Governor should give first preference to the largest single party.

Post-poll alliance/coalition is the last option.

However, senior advocate K.V. Vishwanathan refers to a paragraph in the same 24-year-old Bommai judgment by a seven-judge Constitution Bench to argue the very opposite. He notes that the judgment also mentions that the Governor can either invite the “single largest party/group”.

“Here, the writing is on the wall. Congress and JD (S) form the 'single largest group'. It is not relevant whether the alliance was made pre-poll or post-poll,” Mr. Vishwanathan said.

The Rameshwar Prasad judgment in 2006 by a five-judge apex court Bench endorses the Sarkaria Commission and Bommai judgment.

This 2006 judgment even quoted how post-poll alliances were a source of instability in government. It further to observation made by the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution that “changing alignment of the members of political parties so openly really makes a mockery of our democracy”

But things turned on their head in April 2017 when the three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice J.S. Khehar advanced the date for the floor-test in the Goa Legislative Assembly.

The Congress, which emerged the single largest party in with 17 seats, had complained that Governor Sinha misused her discretion to invite the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP alliance to form the government while ignoring the Congress's claim.

BJP had cobbled together a post-poll alliance to reach the half-way mark of 21 seats out of a total 40 in Goa. Experts say the Bench chose to skirt the issue by ordering a floor-test. 

Now, the Congress is using the apex court’s Goa order as its trump card to show that Governors have used their discretion in past to choose post-poll alliances, like the present Congress-JD (S), over the single largest party to form the government.

Congress could argue that the April 2017 order is proof that the Supreme Court, instead of relying on the Sarkaria Commission, Bommai and Rameshwar Prasad judgments to quash the Goa Governor’s order, paved the way for the Parrikar alliance to form the government.

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Printable version | Nov 21, 2021 4:48:45 PM |

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