Uttarakhand: Rawat returns as Congress proves majority in Assembly
The Centre’s attempt to undermine legislative process in Uttarakhand has backfired, indicating a short-sightedness that will not aid the BJP in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections
Hardnews Bureau Delhi
The Supreme Court has declared the results of the confidence vote in the Uttarakhand Assembly: the Congress, having secured 33 votes, enjoys a majority and therefore the right to continue in government with Harish Rawat to return as Chief Minister. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has submitted before the apex court that the Centre will revoke President’s Rule in the state.
The outcome of the floor test, monitored by the Supreme Court on Tuesday during a two-hour period when President’s Rule was lifted, was a foregone one, with Rawat and other Congress MLAs emerging from the assembly after the floor test on Tuesday beaming and flashing victory sign, confident of their majority. Previously, the Bahujan Samaj Party had announced that its two MLAs, Sarwat Karim Ansari and Haridas, would be supporting the Congress.
This is the culmination of one-and-a-half months of political tumult in the state, beginning with the imposition of President’s Rule on March 27. What made this decision, arrived at by the Centre after an emergency Union Cabinet meeting the previous night, highly contentious was that it came a day before a vote of confidence was due to be held on Monday, March 28, in the wake of 9 dissident Congress MLAs calling for the removal of Rawat as Chief Minister and putting a question mark on the party’s majority. These dissident MLAs were led by former CM Vijay Bahuguna, whose rivalry with Rawat is well-known.
The rebels’ argument that they were dissenting, not defecting, and deserting the leader, not the party, has not found many takers. And as for the allegations of horse-trading against the CM, why should President’s Rule have take precedence over pressing corruption charges?
Many reasons were offered by the Centre for its decision. The controversial passage of the Appropriation Bill, which approves and sets aside money for government expenditure, on March 19 was a pivotal moment. The rebels’ and opposition’s demand for a division of votes on that day was rejected by Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, who declared the Bill passed on the basis of voice vote. A week later, on March 26, the rebels presented video footage of Harish Rawat in talks with a journalist about securing the support of the disenchanted legislators in return for cash and political berths. Another video emerged 2 days ago as well, showing Rawat’s aide Madan Singh Bisht informing Harak Singh Rawat, a member of the breakaway faction, that the CM wanted to spend the money he had made from the mining industry to bring them back into the party fold.
However, these reasons do not hold much water. A vote to ascertain whether the Harish Rawat government continued to enjoy majority in the state assembly had, after all, been called for by Governor KK Paul, and the Speaker’s decision to disqualify the rebels under the anti-defection law from participating in the vote, contended to have been a move calculated to clear the way for the Congress, has been upheld in the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court. The rebels’ argument that they were dissenting, not defecting, and deserting the leader, not the party, has not found many takers. And as for the allegations of horse-trading against the CM, why should President’s Rule have take precedence over pressing corruption charges?
Perhaps it is time for the Centre to introspect, particularly in view of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017, about whether, by acting hastily and rashly flinging around assertions about what is nationalistic and what is constitutional, it is in fact strengthening its opponents
Amidst all of this, Uttarakhand has been headless while large swathes of it have been burning. As of 1pm on Tuesday, the state went back under President’s Rule for the third time in 45 days, with the Centre’s original decision having been quashed by the state High Court on April 21, and the High Court verdict in turn having been stayed by the Supreme Court the very next day. It will emerge from under Article 356 again when Rawat is sworn in.
Harish Rawat has established a reputation for himself as a leader in contact with the masses and it is expected that his victory under the circumstances will give his image a fillip, especially if he puts his house back in order over the next few months. Perhaps it is time for the Centre to introspect, particularly in view of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017, about whether, by acting hastily and rashly flinging around assertions about what is nationalistic and what is constitutional, it is in fact strengthening its opponents.