Uttarakhand: BJP stakes claim to form govt as Congress MLAs rebel, Harish Rawat claims full majority
The Congress has a strength of 36 MLAs in the 70-member Uttarakhand Assembly.
Dehradun: The Congress-led Uttarakhand government plunged into political uncertainty late Friday as nine of its legislators joined ranks with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Beleaguered Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, however, claimed he has "full majority" and warned of disciplinary action against the rebels.
"We have full majority. All our members are in tact. The figures being touted (about our government's strength being reduced) are totally wrong," he told reporters here.
He said if some Congress MLAs, "being lured" by BJP, are today making any claim, the party would take cognizance of it and "whatever action is taken within the party in such cases will be taken."
Rawat said the party will find out who the rebel Congress MLAs are and "so far, only one face has come to the fore."
Earlier this evening, a three-member BJP delegation, comprising former chief minister and MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, BJP in-charge of Uttarakhand Shyam Jaju and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya met Governor KK Paul and said the Harish Rawat government was in a minority and sought its dismissal.
According to Raj Bhavan sources, the BJP staked claim to form the government with the support of the rebel Congress MLAs.
Talking to news agency ANI, BJP leader Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said, "Government is in minority now, it has no moral right to remain in power."
Former chief minister and rebel Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna said that corrupt government has been toppled and demanded Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat's resignation on moral grounds.
"The decision was taken in state's interest. A corrupt government has been defeated. The chief minister should resign on moral grounds or else the Governor should sack him," Bahuguna told reporters here.
The simmering discontent within a section of Congress legislature came to the fore on a day of fast paced developments in the hill state when the nine Congress rebels joined the BJP in the state Assembly in demanding a division of votes amid chaos on the state's annual budget that could have led to its fall.
State Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, however, rejected the demand for the division of votes triggering chaos in the Assembly with both Opposition BJP and rebel Congress MLAs sitting on a dharna in the well of the House to insist on this procedure terming it their democratic right.
The Congress has a strength of 36 MLAs in the 70-member Uttarakhand Assembly. The ruling party also has the support of 6 members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while the BJP has 28 MLAs.
Rejecting the demand by the opposition, Speaker Kunjwal announced passage of the budget by voice vote and adjournment of the House till March 28 before he left his chair in the midst of prevailing din.
The Speaker was seen leaving his Chair and making an exit even as a mixed group of BJP and nine rebel Congress MLAs continued to sit on a dharna in the well clamouring for a division of votes on the budget which they said was their democratic right.
Denying the members the right to go for a division of votes on the budget was murder of democracy, a BJP leader Umesh Agarwal alleged saying it was evasive tactics of the state government in the face of sure defeat.
Rebel Congress MLAs seen raising anti-government slogans along with BJP in the House were mostly those owing allegiance to former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna including Harak Singh Rawat, Amrita Rawat, Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion, Shaila Rani Rawat, Pradip Batra and Subodh Uniyal, a confirmed Bahuguna loyalist.
BJP leaders claimed that the Speaker did not go for a division of votes on the budget as he knew it was bound to fall with a sizeable number of ruling party MLAs all set to cross-vote.
Anti-government and pro-BJP slogans were also heard in the Vidhan Sabha corridors with two sides challenging and abusing each other.
There were also reports about security at the Raj Bhawan being tightened with BJP and disgruntled Congress MLAs headed there to contend that the ruling party had been reduced to a minority in the state Assembly.
Rebel Congress MLAs led by Rawat's bete noire Bahuguna have been expressing their resentment against the state government for some time.
BJP leader and Dehradun Mayor Vinod Chamoli said the legislators had been denied their democratic right with the Speaker's refusal not to allow a division of votes in the House.
Rawat currently runs his government with the support of Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), which is a platform of six non-Congress MLAs, including two BSP (excluding Late Surendra Rakesh), three independents and one UKD.
(With Agency inputs)