The Indian National Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) government in Karnataka is on shaky ground. This, after many of their Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) resigned. Besides these, two Independent MLAs who were Cabinet ministers stepped down from their posts and withdrew their support to the coalition government.
The political crisis is likely to culminate with a floor test on July 18. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which claims that the coalition government does not command a majority any more, has been seeking a motion of no confidence. The saffron party has asserted that they would be in a position to defeat Congress-JD(S) in such a scenario on the floor of the House.
Interestingly, Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has also claimed that the ruling coalition has the numbers and hence called for a vote of confidence.
The Supreme Court on July 17 ruled that the rebel MLAs cannot be compelled to attend the Assembly. Thus, they cannot be forced to participate in the trust vote scheduled for July 18.
If these rebel MLAs abstain from voting, it could result in the collapse of the Congress-JD(S) government.
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What is a floor test?
A floor test is a constitutional mechanism. It is used to determine if the incumbent government enjoys the support of the legislature. This voting process happen in the state’s Legislative Assembly or the Lok Sabha at the central level.
Technically, the chief minister of a state is appointed by the Governor. The appointed chief minister usually belongs to the single largest party or the coalition which has the ‘magic number’. The magic number is the total number of seats required to form a government, or stay in power. It is the half-way mark, plus one. In case of a tie, the Speaker casts the deciding vote.
However, at times, a government’s majority can be questioned. The leader of the party claiming majority has to move a vote of confidence.
If some MLAs remain absent or abstain from voting, the majority is counted on the basis of those present and voting. This effectively reduces the strength of the House and in turn brings down the majority-mark.
The voting process can happen orally, with electronic gadgets or a ballot process.
The Governor can also ask the Chief Minister to prove his or her majority in the House if the stability of the government comes into question.
Incidentally, in May 2018, the BJP had emerged as the single-largest party in the Karnataka Assembly. However, it failed to win enough seats to form the government on its own.
Even as Congress-JD(S) tied up after the election result to stake claim, Governor Vajubhai Vala invited BS Yeddyurappa to form the government and asked him to prove majority on the floor of the House within a stipulated period of time.
This was challenged by Congress-JD(S) in the Supreme Court. The apex court had cut the number of days given to Yeddyurappa to prove his majority. Yeddyurappa stepped down as the chief minister just ahead of the trust vote, paving way for the Kumaraswamy-led government to take charge.
If more than one person is moving the motion of no confidence, it is called a composite floor test. If the House if not in session, the Governor can call for a special session.