Karnataka polls 2018: Will Governor Vajubhai Vala invite largest party or largest combine; experts differ

A differing opinion is emerging amongst some as to how to determine the party with the maximum MLAs -- whether it is the single largest party or a combination of parties.

Published: 15th May 2018 08:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2018 08:35 PM   |  A+A-

A file image of Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala.| EPS


NEW DELHI: Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala is likely to be guided by Supreme Court verdicts which say that a party with the largest number of MLAs should be invited to form the government in the event of a fractured election result, jurists said today.

However, a differing opinion is emerging amongst some as to how to determine the party with the maximum MLAs -- whether it is the single largest party or a combination of parties.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi, Ajit Kumar Sinha and Rajeev Dhavan, retired Supreme Court judge P B Sawant and constitutional expert Govind Goyal were of the view that it was a "premature" stage to think what the Governor will do, but he has a choice either inviting the single largest party or the combination which has more number of MLAs.

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While Rohatgi said it was a settled law that the Governor must call the single largest party, or the BJP here, to form government, Sawant was of the view that there was nothing in the constitutional scheme that would come in the way of the Congress-JD(S) combine forming the government.

Differing with them, Dwivedi and Goel said it was a "premature" stage for the Governor to take a call and, for all observers, it is a "wait and watch" game until the Election Commission announces the final outcome.

Dhavan said the correct way is to call the single largest party first and, if it fails to prove its numbers, then the Governor may go for the coalition option.

Referring to Goa and Manipur polls, Dhavan said a mistake was committed in these two states as the single largest party, the Congress, was not invited to form the government.

His view was shared by Goel who said that as per the constitutional convention, the single largest party should be invited for government formation but there have been a few aberrations in the past like in Manipur and Goa.

He said the Governor should invite the single largest party to explore whether they want to form the government or not, and if they refuse, he would be entitled to request Congress to explore opportunity.

Elaborating further, Dwivedi said after the final outcome, the arithmetic will be clear for the Governor to "apply his conscience" and either invite the single largest party or the combination, whichever will be in a position to provide a stable government in the state.

Emphasising on the stability factor, senior advocate and BJP spokesperson Aman Sinha drew the attention of S R Bommai (1994) and Rameshwar Prasad judgements of the apex court, which clearly stated that the Governor was obliged to invite the party which can provide stable and sustainable government.

He said in the present scenario, only the BJP was in a position to provide a stable and sustainable governance and since BJP was emerging as a single largest party with a few short of majority, it is a clear indication that voters in Karnataka have opted for BJP.

Goel, however, said the Bommai judgement had little relevance in the present scenario as it dealt with the imposition of President's Rule in Karnataka without giving the then ruling party the opportunity to go for the floor test.

He said the Rameshwar Prasad judgement of 2005 has some relevance in the present context as the then Governor in Bihar did not invite the single largest pre-poll alliance partner to form government and recommended imposition of President's Rule on the ground that there was a possibility of horse-trading to form the government.

Sawant said from the legal point of view, "it seems that JD (S) and Congress will be called by the Governor to form the government as their number is more than BJP alone. But they have to prove the number on the floor. The number game clearly shows there are not many parties. To run the government, in my opinion, JD (S) and Congress will be called."

On the contrary, Rohatgi said, "Here (in Karnataka) it is the BJP which is leading by a huge margin. The Governor is bound to invite the BJP. For formation of government, the Governor has to give a reasonable time to the party, probably a week, and then majority has to be proved on the floor of the House." All legal experts were, however, unanimous that the Karnataka verdict has thrown open a test for the Governor to apply his conscience and discretion in taking a decision.


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