ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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When Governors Decide

Karnataka’s post-election drama raises serious questions about the state of India’s constitutional democracy.

For the third time in the last four assembly elections, the electorate of Karnataka has failed to hand a decisive mandate to any one party. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claims that, having won 104 seats in the 222 seats where elections were held on 12 May, it has been given the mandate. The Congress party insists that, since it has the largest vote share and actually saw its vote share increase despite being the incumbent, there was no mandate against it. Together, with more than half the vote share and seats, the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD[S]) claim that they have the mandate to govern.

Legally, Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala would have been in the clear in accepting either the BJP or the claim of the Congress and JD(S) to be invited to form the government as there is no settled law directing him to a single course of action in such a situation. The Supreme Court’s judgments do not give governors any clear hierarchy in choosing between the single largest party or the single largest post-poll alliance in a hung assembly after an election. They are empowered to take the call on their best assessment of the numbers and the need to ensure a stable government. In any case, inviting any party to form the government is not a definitive call. Whoever is invited by the governor to form the government will have to prove majority on the floor of the assembly through a “floor test.”

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Updated On : 21st May, 2018
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