License to poaching

Author Published: 18th May 2018   12:11 am Updated: 17th May 2018   10:49 pm

Constitutional nuances apart, the invitation to BS Yeddyurappa to form the government in Karnataka, despite BJP falling short of simple majority in the hung assembly, would simply mean opening floodgates to horse-trading and poaching. What is constitutionally defensible may not be morally justifiable. The Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision falls into this grey area of morality coming in conflict with constitutional precedents. No doubt, there have been precedents in the past of the single largest party being called in first to prove majority in the House but the present situation in Karnataka is such that the 104-member BJP, eight short of the magic number, has no way of reaching the half-way mark except by poaching MLAs of other parties. By ignoring the claim of the Congress-Janata Dal (S) combine, the post-poll alliance which together commands a clear majority of 116 in the 224-member assembly, the Governor has exposed himself to the charge of political bias, arbitrariness and constitutional impropriety. The Sarkaria Commission had specifically ruled that in the event of inviting the single largest party to form the government, there should be evidence that it is being supported by others and independents to demonstrate a majority. In the SR Bommai case, it was made clear that the Governor should first demand some prima facie evidence that the party being invited to form the government commands such a majority. However, in the present case, no such list was submitted by Yeddyurappa while the Congress-JD (S) had submitted a specific list of MLAs in support of their claim.

Allowing 15 days time to prove majority is widely seen as an invitation to horse-trading to manufacture a majority, particularly in an atmosphere dominated by allegations of inducements. The state politics is bound to turn murkier by the day as the Congress has already started resort-hopping to keep its flock together in the face of a couple of desertions. Though the Supreme Court, after an unprecedented midnight hearing, declined to stay the Governor’s decision and allowed oath-taking by Yeddyurappa, the saffron party will be under judicial watch over its tactics to enhance the tally. After capturing power under questionable circumstances, the BJP’s strategy appears to be to get some Lingayat Congress legislators, resentful of any tie-up with the JD(S), abstain during the voting. It would be a virtual repeat of the 2008 operation outsourced to the controversial Bellary Brothers. It is also amusing that Congress and JD (S), long-time rivals who fought against each other in the recent elections, are taking a high moral ground on the issue of government formation. Their coming together on the results day smacks of political opportunism to grab power at any cost, though the mandate was clearly against the Congress government.