10 things to know before the Karnataka floor test

10 things to know before the Karnataka floor test

A view of Legislative Assembly, Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru. (Photo by S K Dinesh)

With 16 MLAs resigning and bringing down the strength of the Karnataka Assembly from 224 to 208, the Congress-JD(S) strength has been brought down to 101 (including one from the BSP), down from its majority mark of 113. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy seeks to prove his majority by moving the confidence motion in a floor test on Thursday, as announced by speaker K R Ramesh Kumar. 

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Here's everything you need to know about the process:

What is a floor test?

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy during the trust vote, at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, on May 25, 2018. (PTI)
Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy during the trust vote,
at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, on May 25, 2018. (PTI File Photo)

A constitutional mechanism devised to establish the executive i.e. the government's majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly. The chief minister, appointed by the governor based on a party or coalition reaching a majority, is asked to move a vote of confidence when that majority is under question. The majority is then established or fails to be established through voting by members present in the Assembly on the designated day. If the chief minister fails to prove his majority, what follows is his resignation. A floor test can also be announced if there are differences between the parties in a coalition.

What happens in a floor test?

(Representative Image) The ruling party members voted in favor of the vote of confidence in the assembly session on May 25, 2018, called by the majority of the JDS-Congress coalition government in the Assembly. (File Photo)
(Representative Image) The ruling party members voted in favour of the vote of confidence
in the assembly session on May 25, 2018, called by the majority of the JDS-Congress coalition
government in the Assembly. (File Photo)

The speaker will conduct the floor test to ascertain the majority. The chief minister has to move a vote of confidence and win a majority. If the confidence motion fails, the chief minister has to resign.

What is a composite floor test?

Congress and JD(S) MLCs protest against BJP in the Council in Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru on Monday. (DH Photo)
Congress and JD(S) MLCs protest against BJP in theCouncil in Vidhana Soudha,
in Bengaluru on Monday. (DH Photo)

A composite floor test is called for only when more than one party claims to form the government. This happens when the majority is not clear and the governor of the state calls for a special session to establish a majority.

Who votes and how?

(Representational Image) (File Image)
(Representational Image) (File Image)

In a simple floor test or even in the case of a composite floor test, the majority is sealed based on the votes of the members present. The casting of votes can be done in two ways. Voice vote: The members cast their votes orally. Division vote: Votes are cast with the use of ballots, electronic gadgets or slips. In case of a ballot, the vote cast is a secret vote.

What is the difference between no-confidence motion and trust vote?

Then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa made a speech in the House of Commons on May 26, 2018. (DH Photo)
Then chief minister BS Yeddyurappa made a speech in the House of Commons
on May 26, 2018. (DH Photo)

Motion of no-confidence:

A motion of no confidence, alternatively the vote of no confidence or confidence motion - against the government in the state can only be introduced in the State Legislative Assembly. A State Legislative Assembly may be dissolved in a state of emergency, by the governor on request of the chief minister, or if a motion of no confidence is passed against the majority coalition.

A motion of no-confidence is usually moved by the Opposition when it feels that the ruling party or parties do not have a majority in the Assembly any longer.

Trust vote:

A trust vote can take place in an Assembly to give members the chance to convey confidence in a government. It is usually proposed by way of a motion of confidence moved by the government or brought by the Opposition. If the government lacks a majority, it would lead to its resignation.

A trust vote can be put into action when the ruling government resigns and another party stakes a claim to form the government.

What is the role of the speaker?

Governor Vajubhai Vala appointed Bopaiah, a four-term MLA as the pro-tem Speaker of the 15th Assembly to preside over the proceedings of oath-taking of newly elected members and subsequently a floor test on May 18, 2018 in the House. (DH Photo)
Governor Vajubhai Vala appointed Bopaiah, a four-term MLA as the pro-tem Speaker of the 15th
Assembly to preside over the proceedings of oath-taking of newly elected members and
subsequently a floor test on May 18, 2018, in the House. (DH Photo)

The speaker would conduct the floor test. His main duty is to administer the oath to the newly elected members. The Speaker also looks into the resignations of the members of the House. The Speaker's role is also crucial during a confidence vote, with the disqualification of the MLAs, given India's anti-defection law. The Speaker, by convention, can exercise his vote in the event of a tie. 

What are the disqualifications?

Members of the opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly(BJP) walk out ahead of the trust vote session for the newly sworn in Chief Minister of the JD (S)-Congress coalition government in the Karnataka Assembly at the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on Friday May 25, 2018. (Photo: B H Shivakumar)
Members of the opposition in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly(BJP) walk out ahead of the trust vote
session for the newly sworn-in Chief Minister of the JD (S)-Congress coalition government in the
Karnataka Assembly at the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore on May 25, 2018. (Photo: B H Shivakumar)

Article 102 of the Constitution lays down grounds for disqualification relating to the code of conduct and office of profit etc. Under Article 99 of the Constitution, no elected member of a House can take his or her seat before the oath of office is administered.

Under Article 104, they can be disqualified if they vote before taking such an oath. This means that a floor test cannot happen before the swearing-in of newly elected MLAs. Walking out of the House also calls for disqualification and becomes favourable to the opposing party.

The other major reason for disqualification is connected to either defection or switching of sides.

Anti-defection provisions were added to the Constitution as the Tenth Schedule after the 52nd Amendment. Anti-defection provisions are applied after a party has proven majority.

Will the members be disqualified if they (1) cross-vote (2) remain absent or (3) be present but abstain from voting?

Leaders of opposition protest against the election of Deepak Saxena as pro tem speaker during the winter session of state Assembly, in Bhopal, on Tuesday. Congress MLA N P Prajapati was later elected Speaker of the 15th Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly. (Photo: PTI File Photo)
Leaders of opposition protest against the election of Deepak Saxena as pro tem speaker during the
winter session of state Assembly, in Bhopal, on Tuesday. Congress MLA N P Prajapati was later
elected Speaker of the 15th Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly. (Photo: PTI File Photo)

The legislators may change party without risk of disqualification in certain circumstances. One such is when a party decides to merge with or into another party. The law allows this provided that at least two-thirds of legislators are in favour of the merger.

In this situation, neither the members who decide to merge nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification. The members' votes against their party directions will still be counted as valid.

However, cross-voting and abstaining from voting while they remain present in the Assembly would attract anti-defection provisions leading to disqualification.

When a member remains absent, unless he can prove that he was absent due to a genuine emergency, it would still attract action from the anti-defection law. To escape the anti-defection law, two-third of the members of a party must refrain from the above-mentioned disqualifications, i.e the members must defect.

What happens in the event of a tie?

Panoramic view of Chief Minister Kumaraswamy addressing the assembly session on May 25, 2018. (DH File Photo)
Panoramic view of Chief Minister Kumaraswamy addressing the
assembly session on May 25, 2018. (DH File Photo)

After the entire process, if the result of votes cast by the present members is a tie, the Speaker steps in and casts his vote, thereby sealing the process.

Karnataka Crisis 2018, 2019:

Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar and the ruling party, after the JDS-Congress coalition government had declared a majority in the Assembly on May 25, 2018.
Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and DK Shivakumar and the ruling party, after the JDS-Congress coalition
government had declared a majority in the Assembly on May 25, 2018. (DH File Photo)

2018: The Karnataka Assembly floor test was triggered by a fractured mandate in the state Assembly elections. The Supreme Court had given BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa 24 hours to prove his majority in the Karnataka Assembly.

BJP emerged the single largest party with 104 seats but fell short of crossing the halfway mark in the 222-member Assembly. The BJP was subsequently invited by the governor to form the government.

Yeddyurappa took oath as chief minister in the face of opposition from the JD(S) and the Congress party, who claimed they had the required numbers. The coalition came about after a hung verdict in the polls.

Yeddyurappa had to prove he had the support of more than 111 members on the House floor.

The BJP, despite being the single largest party, failed to reach the majority mark. HD Kumaraswamy, as the head of the coalition government of the Congress and the JD (S), won the trust vote in the Assembly with 116 votes.

Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and his deputy G Parameshwara with other members during the Assembly session at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, Monday, July 15, 2019. (PTI File Photo)
Bengaluru: Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and his deputy G Parameshwara with other
members during the Assembly session at Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru,
Monday, July 15, 2019. (PTI File Photo)

2019: The coalition government in Karnataka became shakey after 16 MLAs - 13 of the Congress and three of the JD(S) - resigned from Assembly membership. Out of the 16, 10 MLAs' resignations were found to be not in the right format. The Supreme Court on Friday asked Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar to not take any decision on resignation or disqualification. However, Karnataka Chief Minister Kumaraswamy called for a floor test on July 12, 2019, to prove the government's majority in the Assembly. The Speaker allotted a slot on July 18 for the floor test.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its order for Wednesday at 10.30 a.m. on a plea made by as many as 15 rebel MLAs from Karnataka for a direction to the Speaker to decide on their resignations.