Modi's Party Ordered by Court to Prove Majority in Karnataka

(Bloomberg) -- The Supreme Court of India has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party to prove on Saturday that it can muster enough lawmakers to govern the southern state of Karnataka after an indecisive vote earlier this week.

The court order overturns an earlier, more generous time period from the state’s governor, who had given the party 15 days after the outcome was announced on Tuesday. That dramatically shortens the amount of time for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to gather a majority of lawmakers on the floor of the state legislature, making it more likely the opposition could cobble together enough lawmakers to defeat the BJP.

The BJP won 104 seats in Karnataka’s 224-member legislature -- more than any other party but eight short of the majority -- according to the Election Commission of India. The Congress party, which had ruled the state of more than 61 million people for the last five years, won 78 seats and regional party Janata Dal (Secular) secured 37 seats.

Until his party proves its majority in the legislature, the three judge bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri asked the chief minister to refrain from taking any major policy decisions. It also asked the state police to provide security to the newly elected legislators.

"BJP is ready and confident of winning trust vote in Karnataka," the BJP’s Prakash Javadekar, a federal cabinet minister for human resources, said in a tweet. "We will prove our majority on the floor of the House."

During the court hearing, the Congress party and the Janata Dal (S) agreed to the floor test on Saturday, while the BJP’s B.S. Yeddyurappa, who was recently sworn in as the state’s chief minister, asked for at least three days.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter the Supreme Court’s order "vindicates" the party’s stand that the governor of Karnataka had acted "unconstitutionally" by asking the BJP to form the government in Karnataka.

"The BJP’s bluff that it will form the Govt., even without the numbers, has been called out by the court," Gandhi wrote on Friday. "Stopped legally, they will now try money & muscle, to steal the mandate."

The two rival parties had earlier approached the state’s governor in an attempt to rule as a coalition. But the governor instead asked Modi’s BJP to try and prove its majority.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.