Is BJP right in claiming to form Government as the Single largest Party in Karnataka?

The Supreme Court judgement of S.R. Bommai vs Union of India on 11 March, 1994 states:-

“We make it clear that what we have said above is confined to a situation where the incumbent Chief Minister is alleged to have lost the majority support or the confidence of the House. It is not relevant to a situation arising after a general election where the Governor has to invite the leader of the party commanding majority in the House or the single largest party/group to form the Government. We need express no opinion regarding such a situation.”

Here the mention of single largest party is explicit and the single largest group implies the single largest pre-poll alliance, which does not have majority but together has the maximum number of seats.

In Goa and Manipur, Congress was the single largest party with 17 and 28 seats respectively while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had just 13 and 21 seats. BJP formed Government with post poll alliances in both the states and BJP was asked to face the floor test even though they are not the single largest party. This was because Congress was not ready to stake claim and face the floor test.

Congress kept informing the press that they are ready to stake claim but did not do so fearing humiliation in floor test. Automatically, the Goa Governor had asked the second largest party, BJP, to face the floor test and then they proved their numbers. Congress challenged this decision of the Governor in Court by mentioning the Bommai case judgement, but the court replied:-

“You (Congress) don’t have the numbers and that’s why you didn’t claim to form government… You haven’t demonstrated before the governor that number is in your favour.”

The floor test in Goa assembly happened only after this statement from the Court and thus BJP proved their majority. Even without claiming to form the Government, Congress approached the courts which was considered a pure gimmick.

The above mentioned scenario where a party is not ready to face the floor test and second largest party or post poll alliance getting the chance to face floor test before the single largest party is not new to India. This happened in Jammu & Kashmir during the 2002 assembly elections where Congress formed an alliance with PDP, the current alliance partners of BJP.

Also who can forget the 2013 Delhi elections, where BJP emerged as the single largest party but were not ready to face the floor test. AAP and Congress alliance went to face floor test and formed the government, which ultimately fell flat in just 45 days.

What is the case of Karnataka?

Unlike the Congress in Manipur and Goa, BJP is ready to face the floor test in Karnataka and they should be given the first preference as per law. Congress-JD(S) alliance can be called before BJP only if BJP is not ready to face the floor test unlike how Congress was not ready to face floor test in Goa.

So, quoting the Manipur and Goa scenario and trying to paint the Governor of Karnataka with a shade of BJP is baseless. BJP has been asked to face floor test in Karnataka as they are the single largest party and they were asked to face floor test in Goa and Manipur because Congress, the single largest party was not ready to face floor test.

I would also like to mention what the 1988 Sarkaria Commission report on Center-State relations, to make this point much clearer.

Sarkaria Commission:-

“If there is no such party, the Governor should select a Chief Minister from among the following parties or group of parties by sounding them, in turn, in the order of preference indicated below:

  1. An alliance of parties that was formed prior to the Elections.
  2. The largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others,including “independents.”
  3. A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the Government.
  4. 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 case of Karnataka is the second choice in the above mentioned scenarios from the Sarkaria commission report, where a single party or pre-poll alliance that stakes to form government should be invited to form the government. If BJP claims to form government, they should be allowed to face floor test to prove the numbers they claim, before giving preference to Congress-JD(S) alliance.

The situation in Manipur and Goa refers to the third choice in the above list mentioned scenarios from the Sarkaria commission report, where there is no majority for a single party or pre-poll alliance and the single largest party Congress also didn’t stake claim to form the government. Hence, BJP was allowed to face floor test and they formed the government by proving their numbers in both Goa and Manipur.

When BJP alleged Congress that they are trying to form government through the back door, a huge chunk of posts came saying that BJP did the same in both Goa and Manipur. I would like to refute those who say that BJP formed government through backdoor entry in Goa and Manipur.

Why Congress-JDS forming Government in Karnataka is probably through the backdoor?

Congress trying to enter the upcoming Karnataka government is termed as a backdoor entry, not because of their post poll alliance after becoming only the second largest party but because Congress is trying to form government in Karnataka by sacrificing the Chief Minister (CM) post to a party which has lesser seats than them in a post poll alliance. BJP formed post poll alliances in both Goa and Manipur but they did not give the CM post to other parties and they are the primary party in the government.

In the case of Karnataka, Congress gave up their CM post to the smaller party JD(S) and if this government is formed, JD(S) would become the primary party while Congress would become the supportive party. This shows the desperation of the grand old national party to stay in government at least through backdoor.

Many may reply saying that BJP is supporting regional party in states like Nagaland and Kashmir and this is also the case of backdoor politics. I answer them in advance. In the states, where BJP is the second supporting party in the government, they are not powerful in these states and their seat tally is lesser than the main ruling party and hence this can’t be termed as backdoor politics.

But, if the Congress-JD(S) government is formed, Congress will be the supporting party but with a larger seat tally than the main ruling party, which is clearly a case of backdoor politics.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi