BJP’s Yeddyurappa takes oath as Karnataka CM, Supreme Court to hear Congress plea next on Friday
Supreme Court refused to stay Yeddyurappa’ swearing-in ceremony after Congress and JD (S) moved a late-night petition challenging the Karnataka governor’s decision to invite the BJP leader to form the government and prove his majority in 15 days.
BS Yeddyurappa took oath as Karnataka chief minister on Thursday morning, hours after the Supreme Court turned down a request by the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) to stop the ceremony. The court has said it will hear their petition on Friday.
The Congress and JD(S) moved the Supreme Court late on Wednesday night after Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala invited the BJP to form government in the state. The court began hearing their petition a little after 2 am and ended over three hours later around 5.30 am. The three-judge bench said it would not stop today’s oath ceremony, but said government formation in the state will be subject to the final outcome of the case.
The judges have issued notices to the Karnataka government and Yeddyurappa to reply on the Congress-JDS petition and have also asked the Centre to produce in court, a letter written by Yeddyurappa to the Karnataka governor on May 15 to stake claim to form the government, news agencies reported.
Karnataka has voted in a hung assembly, which means no party has got a majority. The BJP is the largest party with 104 seats in the 224-member assembly, eight short of the 112 seats it needed for a majority, as voting was held only in 222 seats. The Congress has won 78 seats and the Janata Dal (Secular) 37, together well over 112 and have also staked claim to form the government in Karnataka, arguing that they have the numbers and the BJP does not.
On Wednesday night, governor Vala invited Yeddyurappa to form the government, accepting his claim as the leader of the single largest party, and gave him 15 days to prove on the floor of the assembly that he has a majority.
The Congress has alleged that such a long period will allow the BJP to engineer defections among newly elected legislators in other parties.The party’s KC Venugopal also said that the Governor had “violated all democratic principles” by inviting Yeddyurappa to form a government late in the night and then calling for an oath ceremony the very next morning.
“BJP has just 104 MLAs in support and the Governor has invited BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa to form the government. It is completely unconstitutional,” Congress leader and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at the hearing before Justices AK Sikri, Ashok Bhushan and SA Bobde, ANI reported.
The BJP’s lawyer Mukul Rohatgi asked for the petition to be dismissed, saying the governor is doing his job and the court should not stop a constitutional functionary in functioning of his official duties, ANI said.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said the petition should not have been filed. The Congress and JD(S) should have waited for the floor test to be conducted, he added.
“We do not know what kind of majority BS Yeddyurappa has claimed. Unless we see that letter of support, we cannot speculate,” Justice SA Bobde said, according to ANI.
The last time the apex court held a such hearing at night was on a petition in July 2015 seeking clemency for Yakub Memon, who was sentenced to death in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
The Congress and the JD(S) forged a post-poll alliance immediately after the elections, when it became clear that the former, with 78 seats, could not form a government. The Congress agreed to support a JD(S) government headed by HD Kumaraswamy as chief minister, and the two partners submitted a letter, with the signatures of 116 legislators, to the governor on Wednesday.
This was preceded by Yeddyurappa staking his own claim.
Constitutional expert Babu Mathew, professor at the National Law School of India University, said while there might have been precedents in the past, the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Goa assembly was clear that the coalition or party with the majority was to be invited to form the government.
“While the general rule is that the single largest party should be invited to form the government, this does not hold if the party does not have a simple majority,” Mathew said. “If it is fairly clear that the party does not have a majority, and it is still invited to prove its majority, then the door is being opened for horse-trading.”
Vala is believed to have consulted Rohatgi, who told him that the convention was to invite the single-largest party.
If the BJP forms a government, it will be the party’s 21st government in India (some are in partnership with allies). The Congress is now in power only in Punjab, Mizoram, and the union territory of Puducherry.
Muralidhar Rao, BJP general secretary in-charge of the state, said there was a well laid out principle when there was a hung assembly. “When there is no pre-poll alliance, according to Constitutional convention and Supreme Court’s observations in the SR Bommai case, the single largest party should be called and given an opportunity to form the government and prove majority on the floor.”
While the BJP has said it has not made a counter offer to the JD(S), there are reports that it did make one to the latter, which has 38 seats in the assembly (including one won by its partner Bahujan Samaj Party).
Repeated attempts to reach JD(S) spokespersons went unanswered.