Ball in Governor's court, as Karnataka delivers hung verdict

Vajubhai Vala

Back in 2001 Vala, 80, had vacated his Rajkot seat for Narendra Modi to pave the way for the latter's first victory in an assembly election in Gujarat. The same question was asked in both these states - whom should the Governor invite first to form the government? In the third scenario, Governor Vala can keep the Karnataka assembly in suspended animation. Union ministers gave arguments supporting them. In March 2017, Manipur Governor Najma Heptullah invited the BJP to form the government in the state, despite Congress emerging as the largest party.

As the decisions taken by governors in case of a split verdict can create a row as has happened several times, the Sarkaria Commission has proposed a few guidelines on the matter, though individual governor's discretion is ultimately decisive. The three Karnataka MPs- Shoba Karandlaje, G.M. Siddeshwara and P.C. Mohan - in their letter stated that the Congress government in Karnataka was taking the advantage of the political situation which was "fluid following a fractured mandate".

However, the discretionary powers of the Governor offer him or her vast liberty in actions.

As per conventions, the governor is expected to first invite the pre-poll alliance with requisite numbers, followed by the single largest party and then the post-poll alliance.

What was the row in Goa and Manipur? Should it be the single largest party, or the coalition of the other parties in the fray? In Goa, the BJP and the Congress won 13 and 17 seats, respectively, out of the total 40 seats.

With the BJP falling tantalisingly short of the simple majority mark of 112 to form the government in Karnataka, all eyes are on the next move of Governor Vajubhai Vala, an old BJP hand, and a former finance minister of Gujarat who had worked closely with then Chief Minister Narendra Modi for years. He later joined the BJP's predecessor Jana Sangh and grew close to powerful leaders such as Chief Ministers Keshubhai Patel and Chimanbhai Shukla. The veteran BJP leader has the distinction of having presented the most number of budgets in the Gujarat assembly. In the subsequent elections, Modi shifted to Maninagar constituency, and Vala was re-elected from Rajkot West. He returned to take the seat in 2007 and 2012.

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