Union finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday dismissed the Congress’ accusation that the BJP was trying to “steal the mandate” by forcefully wresting power in Goa and Manipur, where it was not the single-largest party.
“The Congress complains a bit too much,” he quipped in a social media post, adding that the main opposition party was not justified in approaching the Supreme Court against the BJP’s move to form the government in Goa.
The apex court refused to stay the oath-taking ceremony of BJP leader Manohar Parrikar as the chief minister of Goa on Tuesday, but directed that the saffron party and its allies must prove their majority in a floor test at 11 am on March 16.
Questioning the grounds on which the Congress was accusing the BJP of “unfair play”, the senior BJP leader said: “The assembly elections in Goa produced an inconclusive verdict. There was a hung assembly. Obviously, post-poll alliances will be formed in a hung assembly. The BJP managed to form an alliance, presenting 21 out of 40 MLAs to the governor.”
Jaitley said the BJP had followed due procedure by appearing before the governor and submitting a letter of support. “The Congress did not even submit its claim to the governor. It had only 17 MLAs to its credit. The Congress, instead, described the governor’s decision to invite Manohar Parrikar to form the government with the support of 21 MLAs as a ‘murder of democracy’,” he wrote.
The results of the Goa polls, announced on March 11, saw the BJP bagging 13 seats while the Congress won 17 in a house of 40. In spite of not being the single-largest party, BJP staked claim to form the government on the basis of support from eight other MLAs.
It was only natural for the governor to invite the BJP to form the government, Jaitley said, adding that such a development was not unprecedented.
When the BJP won 30 of 81 seats in Jharkhand in 2005, JMM leader Shibu Soren – who had the support of 17 MLAs and a few others – was invited to form the government. Similarly, while the National Conference had 28 MLAs in 2002, the governor invited the PDP-Congress alliance of 15+21 MLAs to take over in J&K. Closer still, in 2013, the BJP won 31 seats in Delhi but had to give way to the Aam Aadmi Party – which had 28 MLAs and the support of Congress party legislators.
“There are other precedents on the same lines from 1952 (Madras), 1967 (Rajasthan) and 1982 (Haryana). The debate over the single-largest party lacking majority versus a combination of parties constituting a majority was answered by former President KR Narayanan in a communiqué in March 1988, when he invited Atal Behari Vajpayee to form the government,” Jaitley said.
According to the Union minister, the President’s order had stated: “When no party or pre-election alliance of parties is in a clear majority, the head of state gives the first opportunity to the leader of the party or combination of parties that has won the largest number of seats subject to the prime ministers so appointed obtaining majority support on the floor of the house within a stipulated time. This procedure is not, however, an all-time formula because situations can arise where MPs not belonging to the single-largest party or combination can – as a collective entity – outnumber the single-largest claimant. The President’s choice of Prime Minister is pivoted on the would-be Prime Minister’s claim of commanding the majority support.”
Jaitley, who took additional charge of the defence ministry after Parrikar quit the position to take over as the Goa chief minister, termed it as a big responsibility. “I will start from where Parrikar left,” he said, expressing confidence that the BJP and its allies would be able to prove their majority in the Goa assembly.
For more on the Goa election, click here.