"In the midst of a putative, unfurling constitutional crisis in Karnataka, still playing out at the time of filing, one is of the mind to revisit past episodes in Westminster constitutional history which speak to the ambiguity of the role of the governor general (or governor, as the case may be). In the present situation in Karnataka, the dispute is whether the governor is duty bound to invite the single largest party to form a government and face a test on the floor of the assembly, or whether it is within his power to invite the would-be largest bloc in the assembly, formed, for example, through a post-election alliance, as has occurred in some other states in the recent past. The choice is not trivial, since the order in which the governor selects two rival blocs to form the government may have a material impact on the outcome: such is the power of incumbency, even of an incumbent yet to prove its majority.
What are some other examples of similar crises, with competing claims on the duties, and authority, of the governor (general), within the context of our inherited Westminster system? Canadian history offers one particularly pungent case study, an episode known as the “King-Byng affair” of 1926. (There is a concise history in the Canadian Encyclopaedia, upon which, along with other publicly available sources, I draw on for the facts presented below.) The protagonists were incumbent Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the British-appointed Canadian governor general, Lord Byng of Vimy, a military hero of World War I."
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