SC orders floor test in Karnataka: A glossary to understand all the twists and turns of the election
Here is a glossary of some of the the terms that have emerged with respect to the politics that unfolded in the Karnataka Assembly election 2018
After days of high drama, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered a floor test in the Karnataka Assembly at 4 pm on Saturday, reducing the 15-day window given by the governor to Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa to prove majority.
"Let the House decide and the best course would be floor test," a three-judge bench headed by Justice AK Sikri said. The top court said the pro tem speaker will take decisions in accordance with the law on the issue of floor test.
Here is a glossary of some of the the terms and concepts that have emerged over the last few days:
A hung Assembly refers to a situation where no single party secures a complete majority in the polls after the Election Commission declares the results. In the case of Karnataka, a party has to win at least 113 seats out of the total 224 seats (over 50 percent) in the Assembly to secure a simple majority. This year, since the elections to two of those seats were deferred — thus bringing the total polled seats to 222 — a party could have been said win a majority with 112 seats.
According to results declared on Tuesday, the three biggest parties in Karnataka fared as follows: BJP bagged 104 seats, Congress 78 seats and JD(S) 37 seats. Since no party has reached the 112-seat mark, the current Assembly is referred to as hung.
On Thursday, BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa took oath as the chief minister, hours after the Supreme Court declined to stay his swearing-in ceremony. So right now, Karnataka has both a functioning government (with one minister) and a hung Assembly.
In case of a hung assembly, the state functions under a caretaker government's rule. Now, after Yeddyurappa's swearing-in on Thursday, the state is now under a government which can enact politicies with the consent of the governor, who is the head of the cabinet.
However, Yeddyurappa's lawyer gave an undertaking to the Supreme Court on Friday that the current government (under and consisting of only Yeddyurappa) will not take any major policy decision until the floor test, will be conducted on Saturday at 4 pm.
Pro tem speaker
The pro tem is a temporary speaker appointed by the governor, whose duty is to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the newly-elected MLAs after summons are issued in the Lower House. After the MLAs take take their seats in the House, a regular speaker is elected by the rule of simple majority.
Traditionally, the senior-most member of the House — called the Father of the House — is chosen as a pro tem Speaker. For the recommendation, it is also taken into account if he or she is likely to be a candidate for the post of Speaker or a minister. Apart from conducting the proceedings, the pro tem Speaker would take a call on whether the trust vote should be held through a voice vote or ballot.
The floor test to confirm the majority of a party is usually only done by a regular speaker, but as a News18 article points out, there is “nothing constitutionally wrong in pro tem Speaker conducting a floor test”, while adding that a pro tem speaker “can only perform the functions of a regular speaker in case the House is not able to elect one”.
With the BJP currently short of eight MLAs to secure a majority in the House, the Yeddyurappa-led government may not be able to elect a speaker from their own, in which case there may be no need for a vote of confidence, the piece adds.
If there are doubts against the chief minister, the governor can ask him to prove his majority in the House. In case of a coalition government, the chief minister may be asked to move a vote of confidence and win a majority.
In the absence of a clear majority, when there is more than one individual staking claim to form the government, the governor may call for a special session to see who has the majority to form the government. Some legislators may be absent or choose to not vote. The numbers are then considered based only on those MLAs who were present to vote.
Cabinet of one
Shortly after taking oath as Karnataka chief minister on Thursday, Yeddyurappa announced a farm loan waiver that he said will benefit one lakh farmers in the southern state. Hours later, several IAS and IPS officers were on Thursday transferred and a new advocate-general appointed in a top level reshuffle. The Yeddyurappa government appointed senior advocate Prabhuling K Navadagi as the Advocate-General of Karnataka, in place of Madhusudan R Naik.
But how do Cabinet meetings take place with only one minister sworn in so far? They don't. The chief minister advises the governor — who is the head of the cabinet — on his own, who then approves the decisions. On Thursday, Governor Vajubhai Vala signed the transfer papers to appoint Navadagi to the post with immediate effect, a government notification said.
15-day period to prove majority?
The governor, while inviting the single largest party to form government, gave 15 days to the BJP to establish majority. The 15-day period, however, is not out of a rule-book. It is completely at the discretion of the governor, who can decide on any length of time before which a party has to prove a majority in the House.
"I do not think we need 15 days to prove majority, despite the governor giving us time. I am confident that those Congress MLAs lodged in a private resort outside Bengaluru, who have undergone mental torture and harassment, will vote with the government. We are in power and we will prove our majority," Yeddyurappa reportedly said.
On Friday, the Supreme Court reduced the period by several days, and said that a floor test has to be conducted on Saturday.
Single largest party
The governor's decision to invite the single largest party to form government over post-poll alliances has raised several eyebrows. The single largest party is simply the party with most number of MLAs in the House, which in this case is the BJP with 104 MLAs. However, the Constitution does not explicitly speak of coalitions or of a single largest party.
With inputs from Firstpost contributor Ajay Kumar
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