At a time when a partisan Governor decides to overlook precedents and Sarkaria Commission recommendations on the way forward when no single party has obtained an absolute majority, the Supreme Court stepped in and ordered that Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa will not get 15 days time to prove his majority. The SC order makes it very clear that Governor Vajubhai Vala was wrong in being so magnanimous as to have given 15 days’ time to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority on the floor of the House even when he had sought only seven days’ time.
Ironically, while Yeddyurappa was confident and sure that he would prove his majority on the floor of the House in seven days, the Governor did not think so. This aside, the fact still remains that the Governor should not have exhibited his soft corner for Yeddyurappa in such a fashion. There is no arguing that despite the Sarkaria Commission recommendations, which were affirmed by a Constitution Bench of the SC in Rameshwar Prasad vs Union of India in 2005, as per the Constitution the decision of the Governor is final.
The validity of anything done by him as a matter of his discretion cannot be questioned. As per the Sarkaria Commission report, the order of preference for the Governor in case of a hung assembly is: An alliance of parties that was formed prior to the elections; The single largest party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including independents; A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government; and 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.
The recent past did throw some peculiar scenarios in states like Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya where coalitions having more seats were ignored and BJP was given a chance to form the government and then prove its majority on the respective floors of the Houses. It appears that the governors of Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya took into consideration the specific recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission which talked about a pre or post-electoral collation of parties staking claim to form the government. The same should have been taken into consideration in Karnataka, too.
Of course, no one cares about precedents, particularly when they do not suit the ruling party and this time around it suited the ruling party to go with the Sarkaria Commission recommendation about single largest party staking a claim to form the government. All in all, the Karnataka Governor has still been able to give a decisive edge to BJP in its endeavour to form a government in this state even though the Supreme Court stepped in and, at least, cut short the time which Yeddyurappa had at his disposal to reach an understanding with Congress or JD(S) MLAs. To put it more bluntly, Yeddyurappa was given a long time only to facilitate horse-trading. This is something which the Supreme Court had noted when the Centre had argued that the anti-defection law, which bans lawmakers from switching parties, does not apply to Karnataka’s newly-elected legislators if they have not been sworn in yet. The court was quick to point out: “This means it is (an) open invitation to horse-trading”. The court had also wondered how Yeddyurappa had claimed the support of majority of MLAs when the Congress and JD(S) alliance had 116 MLAs.
The SC also put a spoke in Yeddyurappa’s plans to cobble up a majority somehow when it barred the Governor from nominating any Anglo-Indian community member as MLA till the floor test is over. It asked the Yeddyurappa government to refrain from taking any major policy decision till the floor test is concluded particularly in the light of the fact that Yeddyurappa hastily went about shuffling administrative and police top officials obviously in a bid to utilise his handpicked officials to do his bidding to facilitate his task of horse-trading. Whatever the outcome of the floor test on Saturday may be, it should not be forgotten that the SC did question the rationale behind Governor Vala’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government when the Congress-JD(S) had the majority strength.