Q) “Governor’s use of discretionary power in the appointment of the Chief Minister has become an issue of frequent controversy especially in fractured mandates and pre-poll and post-poll political alliances.” Discuss.
Answer: Article 164(1) of the Indian Constitution provides that the Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor. After elections, when there is clear majority for a party or coalition, then the Governor appoints its leader as the CM and asks him to prove his majority on the floor of the house.
However, in cases where no party or pre-poll alliance wins majority of seats, Governor uses his discretionary powers.
Fractured mandates and Governor’s discretion:
With the plurality of political parties and fractured mandates, there are multiple possibilities of forming a party without majority, pre-poll alliances, post-poll alliances, outside support etc.
In this case, the Governor’s role has become increasingly controversial with allegations of partisanship, especially when the party in power at the Centre is also a contender in the State.
Absence of guidelines for Governor:
- Despite the controversy of Governor’s discretionary role in this situation, no clear solution has been found to navigate this situation.
- Even the Supreme Court hasn’t ventured into framing guidelines in case of hung assemblies, and has only given the directions on a case by case basis.
- The court only held that the Governor’s choice of action should not be arbitrary.
- It said that the appointment of the Chief Minister should be of one who commands or is expected to command the support of a majority of MLAs.
Sarkaria Commission (Centre- State Relation Commission) has provided the basis:
This issue has been studied by various committees and commissions. The Sarkaria Commission (1983) recommended the order of preference that the Governor should follow in case of no clear majority:
- A pre-poll alliance of parties.
- The single largest party with the support of others.
- A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the government.
- A post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a government and the remaining supporting from outside.
These recommendations were subsequently affirmed by the Punchchi Commission (Centre- State relation Commission) and The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC).
As there is no clear solution to this issue, Sarkaria commission’s recommendations form a good basis on how to act. Whether or not its recommendations are followed, it is important for all parties to come together to frame guidelines for the Governor in such situations for a stable polity in the states.