The hung verdict in Karnataka election puts the ball in the court of Governor Vajubhai Vala, with both the BJP and the Congress-JD(S) combine staking claim to form government.
Many have compared the present situation with the last year’s post-poll scenarios in Goa and Manipur. The same question was asked in both these states — whom should the Governor invite first to form the government? Should it be the single largest party, or the coalition of the other parties in the fray?
According to experts, the Governor is free to exercise discretion to invite anyone, especially in cases which don’t involve a pre-poll alliance staking the claim. Experts say there is no clear-cut law on who should be invited first in case of a hung Assembly.
They add there are several commissions, including those headed by Sarkaria and Punchhi, that laid guidelines but they don’t have legal backing.
In Manipur and Goa, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party but the BJP formed the government because it managed to form the “largest coalition” after elections.
Constitution expert Subhash Kashyap says primarily two issues arise in case of hung assembly—who should be invited first and whether they can prove majority.
“The Governor has full discretion to appoint anyone — leader of the single largest party, or leader of the largest coalition. This cannot be challenged even in a court of law.”
Regarding the second issue, Kashyap says the Supreme Court’s 1994 Bommai judgment and reports of various commissions laid down clear principles stating that majority can be tested only via floor test in the Assembly.
Former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy says going by the constitutional tradition, Governor Vajubhai Vala should first invite the single-largest party but adds that the ultimate call is of the Governor whose priority is to oversee the formation of “a stable government.”
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave says the single largest party has to be invited first as per constitutional practice.
“The Governors did not do so in Goa and Manipur but those were breaches.”Though the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Manipur and Goa, the BJP ad the last laugh as it managed to form the “largest coalition” after elections and the Governors chose to invite the leader of the largest coalition.
Incidentally, in Karnataka, the tables are turned for the BJP and the Congress.