With the split in the ruling NDA coalition in Bihar looming large, the fate of the government has become uncertain. After BJP withdraws support, the JD(U) will find itself in minority – four short of the magic figure of 122. In the 243-member assembly, JD(U) has 118 members while BJP has 91. Till now, the NDA enjoyed an overwhelming majority in the House.
Hindustan Times spoke to constitutional experts to see the options before the government. Constitutional experts Subhash C Kashyap and PP Rao, both Supreme Court lawyers, feel that the role of the governor will take centre stage in case of an NDA split.
However, there will be no immediate threat to the government, they said.
“As per constitutional provisions, the government will continue until it loses the floor test inside the House. Then, if it can prove its majority on the floor of the House, it will stay,” Kashyap told HT from New Delhi.
He said there had been several instances where a minority government had continued in office.
“The late Indira Gandhi ran a minority government, and so did the late PV Narsimha Rao. What is important is the floor test, not what happens outside. If the majority is not against the government, it will survive.”
However, Kashyap observed that in case of petitions to the governor claiming lack of majority on the government’s part or demanding President’s rule, it would be up to the governor to take a call.
“Politically, JD(U) would try to manage four to five members to prove its majority and ward off such a situation.”
He said if the governor was convinced that the government was indeed in a minority, it could give a specific time frame to the chief minister to go in for the floor test and prove its majority.
Regarding the 11 BJP ministers in the cabinet, Kashyap said it was up to the chief minister to recommend their removal to the governor, if BJP did not withdraw support but JD(U) decided to sever ties.
“It is the CM’s prerogative to constitute his cabinet. If he wants to remove certain ministers, he will write so to the governor and then reconstitute the cabinet,” Kashyap added.
Constitutional expert PP Rao said that in case of an NDA split, the governor might ask the chief minister to immediately take a confidence vote. “If the government manages four more people, it may continue,” he said.
Besides 209 NDA members, the assembly has 22 members from the RJD, four from the Congress and one each from LJP and CPI.
There are six independents, who are currently the focus of attention.
Sources in the Raj Bhawan told HT that the governor would not like to comment prematurely on the matter.