By Ashima Makhija
The fiery debate surrounding the elections in Goa finally came to an end on March 16 when the BJP-led Government proved its majority in the Supreme Court-mandated floor test. In a unicameral legislature of 40 seats, the BJP led government received the support of 22 legislators, its allies and the NCP MLA, Churchill Alemao.
What is a floor test?
Article 356 of the Indian Constitution provides for the implementation of President’s rule in any state if the state government fails to act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The article was viewed as an instrument through which the Centre could govern the states. In order to prevent misuse of power by the Centre, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional machinery should be tested on the floor of the state Legislative Assembly. Therefore, the floor test was introduced as a mechanism to strengthen the federal polity of our country.
In a floor test, a Chief Minister appointed by the governor can be asked to prove his majority in the house. This is used when coalitions are in power and the majority is questionable. The governor asks the Chief Minister to move a motion of confidence and win a majority among those present and voting.
A chaotic situation
The debate began after the declaration of the election results when the Congress became the largest party with 17 out of the 40 seats while the BJP secured only 13. However, the governor, Mridula Sinha, invited BJP to form the government in Goa, when it formed an alliance with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), Goa Forward Party and two independents. The BJP-led coalition had the support of 21 MLAs-the exact number required to prove a majority.
Just before the swearing-in of Manohar Parrikar as CM, the Congress approached the apex court, assailing the governor’s decision to invite Parrikar to form the government on the grounds that the Congress had won the maximum number of seats. The SC bench, comprising of Chief Justice JS Khekar, Justices Rajan Gogoi and RK Agarwal, responded by asking for a floor test to be passed within 48 hours. This test was scheduled for 16 March 2017.
The fact is, that the SC ordered for other procedures like issuance of notification by the EC constituting the assembly, appointment of pro tem speaker and oath-taking by 40 MLAs to be completed before the 16th of March. The oath-taking ceremony of Parrikar had taken place even before the floor test was complete.
Failure of the Congress
In the floor test, the Congress won the the support of only 16 legislators, with Vishwajeet Rane abstaining from voting. “The Congress has betrayed the trust of the people of Goa. I am fed up with this party,” Rane told the media after resigning from the party. Rane has been a strident critic of the Congress’ management of the chaotic situation in Goa. Even Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar has declared the need to bring a change in the party’s leadership.
The people’s mandate
A question that remains unanswered is whether the BJP was truly backed by Goa’s citizens. The people of Goa have called for a protest against the BJP for cobbling up a majority with smaller political parties without the approval of the people.
The Congress has accused the BJP of gaining support by using illegal means such as bribing. Congress leader Om Prakash Mishra also told ANI in an interview, “This swearing-in ceremony of Manohar Parrikar as the Chief Minister of Goa is a big scam and BJP has resorted to unfair means. Throughout Goa people are protesting as to why the saffron party did such a low act to come to power, and why is the media not showing all this? … This party will not last, as they are totally scripted and show dishonesty in politics.”
One thing is certain, Congress’s lack of leadership and BJP’s strategic planning has the paved way for another victory for the saffron party.
Featured Image Source: Goaprism