This time, the Congress has hit back at the BJP, saying there are precedents aplenty where the BJP has consolidated support from smaller regional parties and formed the government despite not being the single largest party
After the results of the Assembly polls in Karnataka were announced, the Congress realised that it would not be able to form the government. It promptly announced a post-poll alliance with the JD(S), heeding to all its demands, even accepting HD Kumaraswamy as the Chief Minister.
The step had only started seeming as a setback to the BJP, until party supremo Amit Shah entered and turned the game around. He rushed four Union Ministers to Bengaluru, including Prakash Javadekar. BJP’s chief ministerial candidate BS Yeddyurappa promptly sent a letter to the Governor staking claim to form the government despite falling short of numbers even though the BJP had emerged as the single largest party.
The BJP had won 104 seats, 8 short of the halfway mark; whilst Congress (78) – JD(S) (38) combine had 116 and shaky support from independents. In what came as a jolt to the Congress, the Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala announced late on the 16th of May that he has invited the BJP to form the government and given Yeddyurappa 15 days to prove his majority on the floor of the House.
What followed was a frenzied Congress party approaching the Chief Justice of India and calling for an urgent hearing in the Supreme Court. A three-judge panel was formed and Congress’ petition was heard from 01:40 am to 05:00 am, the second such hearing in the history of India after the verdict on Yakub Memon’s hanging.
The Congress demanded that Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in ceremony should be stopped and that the 15-day duration to prove the BJP’s majority on the floor of the House will only encourage the corrupt practice of horse-trading or defection. The apex court heard the case, and announced that it could not stop the swearing in ceremony of Yeddyurappa. However, it added a caveat that the coronation was subject to the conclusion of the case.
Although, it was a huge blow to the Congress, the situation has brought to light several precedents of post-poll alliances which have led to government formation. It started a country wide debate as to which was to be given preference – the single largest party or a post-poll alliance which has crossed the halfway mark.
Congress’ outrage spilled to other states where the BJP had recently formed governments despite not being the single largest party – Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya and even Bihar where RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav announced that they will seek the Governor’s appointment and stake claim to form the government. After all, this will not be the first time that the BJP will leave the Congress high and dry:
MEGHALAYA POLLS 2018
In Meghalaya, where Assembly elections were held in March this year, the BJP had played a pivotal role in snatching victory from the Congress even when it had emerged as the single largest party in the state. After the elections were held, this is what the political scenario had looked:
Total : 60 seats
Congress : 21 seats
National People’s Party : 19 seats,
United Democratic Party : 6 seats,
People’s Democratic Front : 4 seats,
Hill State People’s Democratic Party : 2 seats
BJP : 2 seats
Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement : 1 seat
Nationalist Congress Party : 1 seat
Independents : 3 seats
The BJP had miserably failed to create a mark in the state winning only two seats out of the 47 seats that it consisted for. However, the BJP managed to stitch an alliance with National People’s Party and other smaller regional parties and secured the support of 34 legislators, three more than the halfway mark of 31. The BJP was prompt to send party bigwigs including KJ Alphons and Kiren Rijiju and erstwhile Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to consolidate support. In what came as a jolt to the Congress, Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad invited NPP president Conrad K Sangma to form the government. Rahul Gandhi had hit back at the BJP saying, “With just 2 seats, the BJP has usurped power in Meghalaya, through a proxy. Like in Manipur & Goa, showing utter disregard for the mandate of the people. Obsessed instead with grabbing power, using big money to create an opportunistic alliance. #DemocracyDemonetised,”.
BIHAR POLLS 2015
In Bihar, which had 243 seats, Lalu’s RJD had emerged as the single largest party with 80 seats, followed by Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) with 71 seats. Congress had won 27 seats in that assembly election that had taken place in 2015. At that time, the Congress, JD(S) and the RJD had formed a grand alliance or “mahagathbandhan” to defeat the BJP in Bihar and Nitish Kumar was coronated as the Chief Minister. However, in a major twist, Nitish Kumar had pulled out of the grand alliance last year and had sworn his allegiance to the BJP. RJD supremo Lalu Prasad had condemned this move calling it a “betrayal”, however both the parties had the numbers to form the government.
GOA POLLS 2017
Goa consists of 40 assembly constituencies out of which the Congress had won 17 and the BJP had got 13 seats. Although none of the parties had made it to the halfway mark, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party. Yet, it had failed to form the government.
At that time, the Congress has claimed stake to form the government and sent a letter regarding the same to the Governor of Goa, Mridula Sinha. Sinha had then invited former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to form the government after the BJP had sent the letter of support from 21 MLA’s, consolidating support from smaller regional parties.
The Congress had slammed this move of the Governor with Digvijay Singh telling the press, "We wanted to stake claim since March 12. We had even given her a letter by the night of March 12. She still did not give us time, and went against 'established conventions' and invited the BJP to form government”.
MANIPUR POLLS 2017
In Manipur, which comprises a total of 60 assembly seats, again saw the Congress emerge as the single largest party with 28 seats even though neither the Congress nor the BJP could make it to the halfway mark. Even though the Congress was three short of the halfway mark of 31, it was the BJP that successfully formed the government despite winning 21 seats.
The BJP successfully joined hands with the regional parties in the state, and sent the letter of support with 32 MLA’s standing by BJP’s N Biren Singh. Governor Najma Heptulla invited the BJP coalition to form the government.
The Congress condemned this move of the Governor with Veerappa Moily calling it a conspiracy. He said, “The Constitution says that even if there is a majority by any one party, the single largest party’s leader is called. That is given the first option to form a government. But here that has not happened in Manipur.”This time, the Congress has hit back at the BJP, saying there are precedents aplenty where the BJP has consolidated support from smaller regional parties and formed the government despite not being the single largest party. In a press conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala practically listed these instances which included Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, and Delhi besides Goa and Manipur.
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