Lok Sabha passes Uttarakhand budget amid Congress walkout

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2016, which the government said was a "constitutional necessity".

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2016, which the government said was a "constitutional necessity".

However, Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge called it "unconstitutional", after which all the Congress members walked out saying that the government could have waited till Tuesday when the assembly is to see a trial of strength for the Harish Rawat government.

During the debate, members from regional parties as well as the Congress opposed what they said was the "abuse of Article 356".

Making a strong case for the dismissal of the Harish Rawat-led Congress government and imposition of President's Rule in the hill state, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the constitution's founding fathers envisaged a "rule by majority and not by manipulated majority". 

Jaitley said the central government had "three materials (basic reasons)" to act in Uttarakhand and recommend President's Rule.

"Everyone spoke about the floor test. But what happens if the assembly speaker refuses a floor test? And then, he manipulates and changes the character of the assembly itself," Jaitley said.

The minister said when the state budget could not be passed by the assembly on March 18, nine rebel Congress MLAs could have been disqualified under the Anti-Defection Act the same day. "The state government should have also resigned as the budget had failed."

Jaitley admitted to contentions made by many members, including Gaurav Gogoi (Congress), Tathagata Satpathy (Biju Janata Dal) and Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) that Article 356 had a "chequered" history and has been an "unpopular" legislation.

Jaitley kept on insisting during the debate that the central government had the power to impose President's Rule because there were cases of abuse of powers of the assembly speaker.

"What happens if the speaker upturns the mandate after a floor test and says his ruling is still in favour of the minority. It is true that the courts cannot interfere," he said and maintained that such a "mala fide" situation cannot be allowed to continue. 

So the central government has the right to intervene, the minister said. 

Moving a statutory resolution against the bill, Biju Janata Dal member Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo questioned how the central government was passing the state budget when the imposition of President's Rule itself was not ratified either by the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha.

His resolution was, however, countered by Jaitley and other BJP members and it was rejected by a voice vote.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan then put the bill to vote, after which the house passed it by a voice vote.

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