Wrangling between Congress and BJP has pushed Uttarakand into deep political crisis. Now under President’s rule the issues leading to this are before the High Court too as both parties weigh the options before them, finds Vivek Srivastava
After Arunachal Pradesh it was the turn of Congress governed Uttarakhand, where the Centre imposed President’s rule. It was on March 18 when nine Congress MLAs, along with 27 BJP legislators, met Governor KK Paul and asked that the Uttarakhand Government, under the then Chief Minister Harish Rawat to be dismissed.
Rawat met the Governor on March 19 and claimed that he had a majority in the 71-seat Uttarakhand Assembly. The Governor asked him to prove the majority by 28th March.
But before Rawat could prove his majority, the Central Government imposed President’s rule on March 27th. “Given the political crisis in Uttarakhand, it was decided to impose President’s Rule in the State,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The Finance Minister said that the way the Finance Bill was passed on March 18 by the Uttarakhand Government despite at least nine Congress MLAs openly rebelling against the Government in the Assembly showed the Government was non-constitutional.
“It is perhaps the first and only example in independent India that a failed Bill was passed in the Assembly without a proper vote. The Government that was in power after March 18 was non-constitutional,” said Jaitley.
The battle in courts
Rawat moved the High Court against the imposition of President’s Rule. The court ruled that all 70 MLAs, including the nine rebels who were suspended by the Speaker, must vote, and the floor test shall take place on March 31. However, this decision was stayed by a division bench of the High Court, which said that the floor test will take place on 7th April.
The order came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Centre, opposed the floor-test order saying courts cannot interfere with a presidential proclamation. “How can a floor test be ordered when a presidential proclamation is in force and the assembly is in suspended animation,” he said.
However, on April 7 the High Court said that there will be no floor test in the Assembly till April 19 while directing its ire towards the Centre. The High Court asked the Attorney General, appearing on behalf of the Centre, as to what was the hurry to pre-empt the floor test in the Assembly on March 28 by imposing President's rule a day earlier.
The court pointed that the court proceedings would have been avoided had the Centre waited. Responding to the observations, the Centre told the High Court that it does not care about the fate of nine disqualified MLAs.
The High Court also pulled up the Centre, saying it can revoke President’s rule in the state. Cautioning the Centre, the High Court said, "No hanky-panky must be done by April 18 or we can pass an order to protect the litigant - like revoke Article 356."
Earlier the High Court had directed the Centre to respond to the writ petition filed by Rawat challenging the promulgation of an ordinance by the Union Government on the appropriation bill.
Harish Rawat stung
Just two days before Rawat had to prove his majority, a sting video shot by private TV channel Samachar Plus and released by rebel leaders. It showed the Chief Minister purportedly talking to a man whose face is not visible. The rebels said that the Chief Minister had offered them money and posts to secure their support.
There is no mention of money per se during the conversation. However, there are references to numbers like 15, 10 and 5 during the conversation.
“We had told the Governor that the State Government will indulge in horse-trading. We could not understand as to why he gave so many days to it to prove its majority in the Assembly. Our fears have come true. It has been clearly exposed today that Harish Rawat is busy buying over his own MLAs,” said BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
The Congress however, dismissed the sting calling it a fakery and concoction of the dirty tricks department of BJP. “The sting CD being shown on news channels is fake. The reputation of the man behind it, who is associated with a private news channel, is not hidden from anyone. His antecedents must be probed,” said Rawat.
Rawat meets Rahul
In order to finalise the future course of action Rawat met Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and apprised him about the political scenario of the State.
n the meeting with the Congress vice president, Rawat is learnt to have briefed him about the pros and cons for Congress if BJP chooses to form the Government with support from the rebel MLAs or the Assembly is dissolved immediately for holding fresh elections.
Playing the victim card, Rawat alleged the Modi government got him removed because BJP faced an impediment in pursuing its communal agenda in Uttarakhand while he was Chief Minister.