THE leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka B S Yeddyurappa was on Wednesday invited by Governor Vajubhai Vala to form a new government in the state on account of the BJP’s emergence as the single largest party with 104 seats in the 224-member Assembly in polls held on May 12. The swearing-in has been scheduled for 9 am on Thursday.
The Governor has also given the BJP 15 days to prove its majority in the hung Assembly where the Congress has 78 members, the Janata Dal (Secular) 37 members and there are three others, including a BSP member, allied with the JDS.
“I am in receipt of your letter dated 16th May 2018 informing me that you have been elected as the the leader of the BJP legislative party of Karnataka. I am also in receipt of your letter dated 15th May 2018 staking claim to form the government. I invite you to form the government and be sworn in as the chief minister of Karnataka,’’ the Governor said in a letter to Yeddyurappa. “I may also direct you that you would seek a vote of confidence on the floor of the house showing that you command the confidence of the house. This process shall be completed within fifteen days from the date of the assumption your office as the chief minister of Karnataka,’’ the letter states.
Minutes after the invitation, the Congress slammed the move as partisan and biased and explored legal means to stall the swearing-in.
Late tonight, the Congress filed a petition before the Supreme Court Registrar challenging the Governor’s decision and seeking an urgent hearing by the Chief Justice of India tonight itself.
The petition, filed by Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee and JD(S) state president H Do Kumaraswamy has moved a plea seeking the court to quash the order of the Governor inviting Yeddyurappa to form the Government on Thursday and declare it as “unconstitutional, arbitrary, illegal, void-ab-initio, and violative of Article 14 of Constitution of India”.
It also seeks the court to issue an appropriate writ/direction to the Governor to “invite the alliance of JD(S) and INC which has the support of more than 112 MLAs to form the Government under the leadership of Shri H. D Kumaraswamy”.
The Supreme Court Registrar, after scrutinizing the plea, reached the residence of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra around midnight. CJi Misra will decide if the petition would come up for urgent hearing.
Thes dramatic developments came after back-to-back press conferences by the Congress attacking the Governor alleging that he was acting as a “BJP puppet”, and a counter press conference by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
“We have filed and if he gives permission tonight I will be arguing the charge. If he gives permission we will go tonight. And if not, then tomorrow,” Congress leader and senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi told The Indian Express. The Congress idea is to stall the swearing-in and, if it cannot do that, try to seek curtailment of the 15-day period given to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority in the Assembly.
As it became clear that the Governor is set to invite Yeddyurappa to form the Government, the Congress fielded P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Vivek Tankha to question the move. The BJP hit back with Prasad addressing the media.
While Chidambaram cited the recent Supreme Court judgment in the Goa case to back its argument, Prasad quoted the recommendations of the Justice Sarkaria and the M M Punchhi Commissions to argue that the single largest party should be called first to form the government if there was no pre-poll alliance to stake claim.
Chidambaram said that by inviting Yeddyurappa the Governor was walking on a perilous path which is illegal. The Congress cited the Goa case where the court upheld Goa Governor Mridula Sinha’s invitation to BJP leader Manohar Parrikar to form the government even though the Congress emerged as the single largest party. While rejecting the Congress’s objection on March 14, 2017, the Supreme Court had ordered a floor test to be held in two days. The Congress is now hoping that the Supreme Court will reduce the 15-day period given to Yeddyurappa.
“Governor invites Mr Yeddyurappa to manufacture a majority in 15 days. Governor gives Mr Yeddyurappa 15 days to convert the number 104 into 111,” Chidambaram tweeted as the Governor’s decision became official.
At the press conference, he said, the Governor is constitutionally bound to prevent poaching. “If he is inviting anyone but Kumaraswamy, then he is is encouraging poaching…How can a minority become a majority unless you poach?”
Prasad said the Congress had no right to talk about the Constitution. “The party that blew up the Constitution to shambles is teaching us the Constitution, the party that imposed President’s rule the most number of times is giving us lessons,” Prasad said adding “Congress party shouldn’t teach us what Constitution says, nor teach us the culture of democracy.”
He also recalled that the Congress had dismissed three BJP governments after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and had imposed Emergency. Citing the S R Bommai judgment, he said the Supreme Court had ruled that floor of the house should be the only forum where majority is to be tested. He said it was not relevant to the situation arising out of a fresh election.
The minister said two commissions, the Justice Sarkaria Commission and the M M Punchhi Commission, had maintained that the single largest party should be called first to form the government if there was no pre-poll alliance to stake claim.
Referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the Goa case, Chidambaram said: “That is the law. That is the latest declaration of law of the Supreme Court…There is no subsequent statement of law. That statement of law binds everyone. The Supreme Court has affirmed that if there is a post poll coalition and that post poll coalition numbers prima facie shows that there is a majority…they are entitled to be invited and they are entitled to prove their majority in the House.”
Said Sibal: “It was the Constitutional duty of the Governor to have called upon H D Kumaraswamy to administer him the oath of office and asked him to prove his majority. That is the law laid down by the Supreme Court.” Chidambaram said the governor’s decision is not beyond judicial review.