The hung verdict in Delhi assembly polls has raised intriguing questions about government formation in the national capital.
With 31 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday emerged as the single largest party, but it is still short of the majority mark of 36 in the 70-member assembly. The second largest party is the fledgling Aam Admi Party with 28 seats, followed by the Congress with 8 seats. One seat each has gone to an Independent, the Janata Dal - United and the Akali Dal, which is an ally of the BJP.
The options for the BJP are to either stake a claim to form the government or wait for Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to invite its leader Harsh Vardhan to do so as leader of the single largest party.
The catch is that the Lieutenant Governor is likely to ask a BJP government to prove its majority in the House within a specified time. Given the composition of the assembly, it is unlikely that the BJP would be able to prove its majority, unless there are defections from the Congress or the AAP, which may not happen.
Vardhan, the BJP's chief ministerial candidate, tonight said he will not stake claim to form a government as his party is short of a clear majority.
He would prefer to sit in the opposition, said Vardhan, than indulging in any "horse trading".
"Since I don't have the numbers, I cannot stake my claim in forming the government in Delhi. Since I don't have the magic number of 36, I really cannot be part of the government formation in Delhi,” he said.
“And honestly, I prefer to sit in the Opposition, to try and help any government that is in the offing and support them for the people's cause," he said.
Echoing Vardhan's views, Delhi BJP President Vijay Goel said the party will not resort to any unfair means to reach the magic figure of 36 and would prefer to sit in the Opposition instead.
"We will not resort to any unfair means to get support of the required number of MLAs. The people of Delhi have given the verdict and we respect it. We will prefer to sit in the Opposition rather than forming a government through horse trading," said Goel.
Former BJP president and in-charge of Delhi Nitin Gadkari said, "We will form the government if we get support by the natural process. Otherwise we would like to sit in the Opposition."
If there is no way out of the impasse, there may be a spell of the Lieutenant Governor's rule for a maximum of six months in one go, which could be extended up to one year.
Talking about various options, a Constitutional expert said a lot would depend upon the discretion of the Lieutenant Governor and which party he invites to form the government.
Another expert, S K Sharma, former director of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, said the Lieutenant Governor is likely to invite the single largest party to form the government and give it a chance to prove its majority on the floor of the House.
"The Supreme Court in the S R Bommai case had ruled that the House is the appropriate forum for proving the strength of any ruling party," Sharma said.
With the AAP making it clear that it will play the role of a constructive opposition, roping in support from them may be difficult for the BJP.
Sources in the BJP said the Independent candidate from Mundka constituency, Rambir Shokeen, has indicated that he will extend support to the saffron party, which will take its tally to 33.
One expert said a minority government may also function if the AAP and the Congress do not want to topple it.
The BJP may even try to get the support of some Congress MLAs, as getting three of the Congress' nine MLAs will not invite provisions of the anti-defection law.
Image: Dancers perform during celebrations outside the headquarters of the BJP ' Photograph: Ahmad Masood/Reuters