Maharashtra political crisis: A look at floor tests and outcomes in other states since 2019

With the crisis within the Shiv Sena intensifying following the rebellion led by Eknath Shinde, the Governor’s powers under the Constitution to call for a floor test has taken centrestage in Maharashtra.

As the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition of Sena, NCP and Congress teeters on the brink of collapse, we take a quick recap of floor tests that happened in state assemblies since 2019.

Karnataka, July 2019

Resignation of 17 MLAs–14 of Congress and three of Janata Dal (Secular)–led to the collapse of 14-month-old JD(S)-Congress alliance-led by former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.

Karnataka saw almost three-weeks of political drama with rival camps sequestering their MLAs in resorts and hotels, allegations of bribery and horse-trading flying thick and fast and rebel MLAs knocking the door of the Supreme Court over whip issue and floor test.

The then Speaker KR Ramesh Kumar disqualified all the 17 rebel lawmakers from the House under the anti-defection law, reducing the strength of the House to 208 (including the Speaker), and conducted live and video-recorded floor test as per the order of the Supreme Court.

With the magic figure for forming the government reducing to 104 with the disqualification and the BJP, along with the support of one Independent MLA, having 106 seats, the coalition government collapsed as Kumaraswamy lost the no-confidence motion by 99-105 votes. He tendered his resignation and subsequently B S Yediyurappa took oath as Chief Minister.

Madhya Pradesh, March 2020

The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh could only last for 15 months as it was reduced to minority due to rebellion within the party.

A total of 22 Congress MLAs, including heavyweight Jyotiraditya Scindia, citing differences over the working of the government, resigned from the Congress party.

A floor test was conducted, where 107 MLAs of the BJP as well as two BSP and two independent MLAs and the lone SP MLA, who had previously backed the Kamal Nath government, voted in favour of the BJP government in the 230-member Assembly.

Following the floor test, Kamal Nath resigned as CM while BJP senior leader Shivraj Chauhan took the reins.

Manipur, June 2020

The BJP-led coalition government in Manipur plunged into a crisis after six MLAs withdrew their support and three BJP MLAs quit the party and joined the Congress.

The Congress moved a no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government in the state. However, the Biren Singh government won the trust vote in Manipur as eight opposition Congress MLAs skipped the one-day session after defying the party whip, making it easy for the BJP to sail through.

The strength of the 60-member House was reduced to 53 after the resignation of three legislators and disqualification of four members under the anti-defection law. The halfway mark was 27.

With four National People’s Party (NPP) MLAs returning to the ruling coalition, the Biren Singh government survived.

Rajasthan, July 2020

In July 2020, former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot along with 18 other MLAs revolted against the Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot over differences in the functioning of the government. Pilot decamped with 18 MLAs, including Cabinet ministers, loyal to him and moved to Delhi and Haryana for over a month.

However, after hectic parleys between the rebels and Congress high command, they agreed to return to the desert state.

Gehlot called the confidence vote at the floor of the House, which he easily won with the return of 19 rebels. In a House of 200, the Congress party had 107 MLAs with the support of Independents and allies while 72 members were with the BJP.

A floor test is primarily conducted to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature. It is a constitutional mechanism under which a Chief Minister appointed by the Governor can be asked to prove majority on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of the state.

When a single party secures the majority of the seats in the house, the Governor appoints the leader of the party as the Chief Minister. In case the majority is questioned, the leader of the party which claims majority has to move a vote of confidence and prove majority among those present and voting. The Chief Minister has to resign if they fail to prove their majority in the house. This happens both in the parliament and the state legislative assemblies.

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