On Tuesday, while recommending President’s Rule in Maharashtra, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari noted that a situation has arisen when the formation of a stable government is not possible even 15 days after the election results had been declared.
How President's Rule is imposed
President’s Rule implies the suspension of a state government and the imposition of direct rule of the Centre. This is achieved through the invocation of Article 356 of the Constitution by the President on the advice of the Union Council of Ministers. Under Article 356, this move can be taken “(1) If the President, on receipt of the report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution...”
The Maharashtra Assembly has been kept in suspended animation. However, the new Assembly stands constituted, with the names of the election winners having been notified by the Election Commission.
How long President's Rule can last
A proclamation of President’s Rule can be revoked through a subsequent proclamation in case the leader of a party produces letters of support from a majority of members of the Assembly, and stakes his claim to form a government. The revocation does not need the approval of Parliament.
So, this is not the end of the road for any formation in Maharashtra. In fact, all players now have time to work out their alliances and head to Raj Bhavan to stake their claim to form a government.
Any proclamation under Article 356 —which stands for six months — has to be approved by both Houses in the Parliament session following it. This six-month time-frame can be extended in phases, up to three years.
A window remains open
With the Assembly in suspended animation, it means the stakeholders — BJP, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress — can approach the Governor any time with the required proof of support to prove majority on the floor of the House. The EC notification on the election will be treated as the new Assembly having been constituted.
This is not the first time President’s Rule has been imposed following an election that did not lead to government formation. For instance, no party could mobilise a majority in the Bihar Assembly following elections in February 2005. President’s Rule, which was imposed on March 7, 2005, lasted 262 days until November 24 . It was lifted after fresh elections in October-November.
A hung verdict in the Jammu and Kashmir elections of 2002 led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 15 days, from October 18 to November 2 that year. The National Conference had emerged the single largest party, but was short of a majority. The PDP and the Congress formed a coalition government after prolonged negotiations. PDP leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed became the Chief Minister for the first three years and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad for the remaining three years. The alliance also included the Panthers Party.
In the UP Assembly elections of 2002, no party could secure a majority. This led to the imposition of President’s Rule for 56 days, from March 3 to to May 2, 2002. Then Mayawati (BSP) and the BJP struck a deal and the former became the Chief Minister on May 3. The alliance collapsed a year later and Mayawati resigned in August 2003. This was followed by the assumption of power by the Samajwadi Party with the support of BSP rebels.
Don't miss from Explained: Why BRICS matters for India