Sumeet Bhasin

Karnataka Elections and the larger question of fractured mandates!

The Supreme Court today reduced the time frame for the Karnataka Government to prove its majority on the floor of the house. While the Hon’ble Court has done this to prevent “horse-trading” however, the entire episode raises more questions rather than the answers it provides.


The fundamental principle behind any democratic government is of representation- representation of the will of the people. This issue is of immense importance here because one needs to ask whether the will of the people of Karnataka is such that the Congress or the JDS governs them. The answer to this question is simply no as both do not have the numbers to form the government alone and they fought against each other on several seats. I am not questioning the legitimacy of the post-poll alliance. The mandate was anti-Congress and anti-JDS hence I am questioning the fundamental principles and contrasting them with the legal principles to argue how in the functional sense, too often legal principles ignore the fundamental principles.


Is horse-trading a bigger evil than denying people with the choice of their government? More so, will legal technicality be used or will the courts in the pretext of preventing horse-trading and in the legal rules of the game be legitimate in denying the people a government of their choice? Justice Bhagwati has often stated that the courts should be sensitive to the larger citizen interests, I wonder why the court would unilaterally deny enough time to the incumbent government to prove its majority in the floor of the house. Remember, the post poll alliance is not a natural ideological alliance and what binds it is political opportunism- as a result the stability of such an alliance is questionable.


The issue has a structural dimension too. We need to significantly look at how we deal with a fractured mandate and come up with constitutional ways to ensure that the will of the people is supreme. It may mean allowing for a minority government in special cases or alternatively, for seats with narrow margin (with a defined limit) repolls must be held in a case of a hung assembly. It is about time that there are some constitutional reforms that are brought in to ensure the will or choices of people is not just respected but also duly considered when it comes to fractured mandates. Politics and opportunism shall continue, governance shall suffer, and people’s will be rendered as pointless in the absence of such reforms and this may lead to disenchantment with the functioning of our institutions and the electoral processes.



May 18 2018