With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alliance in Jammu and Kashmir coming to an end, the state is headed for another spell of central rule. If Governor’s rule is imposed, this will be the eighth such instance for Jammu and Kashmir.
Here is what you should know about direct central rule, when it comes into play, and the different situations that can emerge after elections to different state assemblies.
Article 356 of the Constitution of India provides for the declaration of President’s Rule in a state. The Constitution lays down that this can be done if the President, “on the basis of a report by the Governor or otherwise”, is satisfied that there is a situation where a state cannot be governed under the provisions of the Constitution.
Under this provision of central rule, the President can assume all or any of the functions of the state government, state Governor, or any body of the state except the state legislature, whose functions would come under the authority of Parliament.
President’s Rule does not cover the powers vested in or exercised by the state High Court and has to be ratified by Parliament within a stipulated time period.
President’s rule can be imposed in all other states with the exception of Jammu and Kashmir, where Section 92 of the state constitution provides for Governor’s rule. There is, however, not much of a difference in the manner in which a state is administered in either of the two arrangements.
Governor’s rule can be imposed only after receiving the approval of the President. In case the situation remains unchanged after six months, President’s rule can be imposed on the state.
The last time Jammu and Kashmir came under central rule (Governor’s rule) was in 2016, after the death of then Chief Minister and PDP founder Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.
The first time the state came under Governor’s rule was in 1997, when the Congress withdrew support to the then NC government headed by party founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.
A hung assembly occurs when no party or pre-poll coalition is able to secure a majority, i.e. more than half the number of seats in the entire state, following an election.
After Jammu and Kashmir voted for the state assembly in 2014, no single party managed to get a majority in the House of 87 members. To get a majority, a party would have needed to get at least 44 seats. What resulted was a hung assembly.
A coalition government or alliance can be formed when no single party wins a majority of seats after elections are held, or between parties that had already decided to form an alliance at a pre-poll stage and then manage to secure majority. In Jammu and Kashmir, the PDP (28 seats) and the BJP (25 seats) worked out a post-poll alliance to form a government after long-drawn out negotiations.
The most recent instance of a coalition government was in Karnataka after the state assembly elections in May 2018. The BJP emerged as the single-largest party with 104 seats but fell short of the majority mark of 112. (Elections to 2 of the 224 assembly seats were held later; the Congress won both of them).
The Congress, with 78 seats, then offered to support the Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), led by HD Kumaraswamy, that had won 37 assembly seats. The Governor first invited the BJP led by BS Yeddyurappa to form the government since it was the single largest party. Yeddyurappa, or BSY as he is popularly known, however, resigned before proving his majority in the assembly within the period stipulated by the Supreme Court.
The Congress and the JD(S) then formed a coalition government in Karnataka.
As per established convention, the largest pre-poll alliance is given the first choice by the state governor to form a government. If there is no pre-poll alliance, the second option is calling the largest single party which stakes claim to form a government with the support of other members. The third option is a post-poll alliance, with all partners joining the government.
A fourth option is a post-poll alliance forming the government with others, including Independents, supporting it form outside.
Proving A Majority
In case of a doubt or dispute, the Governor of a state can ask a political party or a formation of political parties (an alliance or a coalition), to prove their majority. This is done on the floor of the House (state assembly) in keeping with past judgments of the Supreme Court that have interpreted the provisions of the Indian Constitution.
In the case of Karnataka, the Congress-JD(S) coalition proved its majority in the House by a voice vote after a walkout by the BJP.