Karnataka Assembly Floor Test: Here’s A Break Down of Procedure

With the Supreme Court ruling out a secret ballot, what exactly is the procedure for a floor test?

Updated
India
3 min read
BS Yeddyurappa 
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Four days after Karnataka delivered a fractured verdict in the Assembly Elections, a floor test in the Vidhana Soudha on Saturday will decide the fate of the BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP government.

The Karnataka Assembly has 224 seats. However, with elections to two constituencies – Jayanagar and Rajarajeshwari Nagar – being postponed, only 222 Assembly seats went to polls on May 12. JD(S) chief and CM hopeful HD Kumaraswamy will have only one vote despite emerging victorious from Ramanagara and Channapatna. The pro-tem Speaker, meanwhile, will cast the deciding vote only in the event of a tie.

The present strength of the Karnataka Assembly is 220 excluding the pro-tem Speaker.

With the Supreme Court ruling out a secret ballot, what exactly is the procedure for a floor test?

First, the pro-tem Speaker will administer the oath to all MLAs in the House – the time for this has been set as 11am, and anyone who does not take oath then will not be considered an MLA.

Once this is done, the trust vote will be taken up at 4pm. A motion of confidence will be moved by a member of the House, usually the floor leader of the ruling party.

According to the Assembly procedure, “A matter requiring the decision of the Assembly is brought forward by means of a motion proposed by a Member and a question stated or read out by the Speaker thereon,” reports The Hindu.

The Speaker will read out the motion and put it to a vote. It is the Speaker’s discretion what method to employ. A vote can be registered in the following ways:

Voice Vote

In a voice vote, the Speaker will ask those in favour of the motion to say ‘Aye’, and those against the motion to say ‘No’. The Speaker then decides whether the ‘Ayes have it’ or the ‘Noes have it’.

While the voice vote is considered the simplest and quickest voting method, it has proved controversial, especially in cases where the majority is not clear.

In October 2010, the then Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa was forced to take two floor tests in a matter of four days. This, after Yeddyurappa won the motion of confidence based on a voice vote, which had created pandemonium in the House.

Then Governor HR Bharadwaj, however, rejected the floor test, calling it a ‘farce’ and went on to call a second trial of strength, which Yeddyurappa went on to win.

Division of Votes

A division of votes can be carried out in multiple ways. With the Karnataka Assembly not having an electronic voting system, a vote can be carried out with slips that have ‘Ayes’ and ‘Noes’ on them. However, this method is highly unlikely.

Counting of heads is the method that the pro-tem Speaker is most likely to employ. Addressing a press conference on Friday, Murthy, the Secretary of the Legislature Secretariat, said that the members of the House would be asked to physically stand up. Those in favour and against the motion will stand up, with a manual counting of heads.

The pro-tem Speaker could also employ the roll call method. Here, the House is divided into blocks. The Assembly Secretary then does a roll call of members, block by block, recording each vote. The Secretary also records those MLAs who choose to remain neutral. The roll call was most recently used in the February 2017 trust vote against the Edappadi Palaniswami government, which the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister went on to win.

Members of the House can challenge the vote of an MLA on various grounds before the results are announced by the pro-tem Speaker. However, the pro-tem Speaker’s decision is final.

Votes are counted, the results are declared.

What Happens Next?

Well, if Yeddyurappa wins, he will continue as Chief Minister and will go on to form his cabinet. The swearing-in ceremony of Yeddyurappa’s cabinet is likely to be a grand affair, given that the CM’s was rather low-key.

If Yeddyurappa loses the floor test, there are two things that can happen.

Governor Vajubhai Vala can invite post-poll allies JD(S) and Congress to form the government. HD Kumaraswamy will, however, have to take a floor test.

Governor Vajubhai Vala can also choose to declare President’s rule and the state will go to elections in six months.

(This copy was first published on The News Minute and has been republished here with permission. )

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