Who should governor invite to form govt?

 The ongoing political drama in Goa and Manipur has again raised questions over the role of governors in government formation after polls.

Have the governors of Goa and Manipur violated any of the recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission which went into the issue?

The Supreme Court’s observations on Tuesday — in the case of Congress’ s plea against Goa Governor Mridula Sinha’s invitation to Manohar Parrikar — do not appear to indict her.

The Congress won 17 seats in the election and the BJP 13, but the latter secured the support of small regional parties for reaching the majority figure of 21 in a House of 40 members.

The Sarkaria Commission, in a report way back in 1987, recommended that in choosing a chief minister, the governor should be guided by certain principles. It made it clear that if there is a single party having an absolute majority in the Assembly, the leader of the party should automatically be asked to become the chief minister.

If there is no such party, the governor should select a chief minister from among the following parties or groups of parties by sounding them in turn, in the order of preference indicated below:

(i) an alliance of parties that was formed prior to the elections

(ii) the largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including ‘independents’

(iii) a post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government

(iv) a post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a government and the remaining parties, including independents, supporting the government from outside

(v) the governor, while going through the process described above, should select a leader who in his (governor’s) judgement is most likely to command a majority in the Assembly

The Sarkaria Commission also recommended that a chief minister, unless he/she is the leader of a party which has absolute majority in the Assembly, should seek a vote of confidence in the Assembly within 30 days of taking over. This practice should be religiously adhered to with the sanctity of a rule of law.

Essentially, the panel said the party or combination of parties which commands the widest support in the legislative Assembly should be called upon to form the government.

The bottom line was that the governor’s task is to see that “a government is formed and not to try to form a government which pursues policies which he (or she) approves”.

The other recommendations made by the commission were that the issue of majority support should be allowed/directed to be tested only on the floor of the House and nowhere else.

The Sarkaria panel was set up by the Centre in June 1983 after growing pressure for greater autonomy by the states, which raises questions over the role of governor.

The commission submitted its report to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in October 1987. Since then, its recommendations have been cited by the apex court and others as a textbook in government formation.

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