A repeat of what recently happened in Aruchal Pradesh is on the cards in Uttarakhand unless Chief Minister Harish Rawat mages to turn the tables on dissident Congress legislators aligning with the BJP. Governor Krish Kant Paul has asked Rawat to go for a floor test by March 28 to prove his majority in the 70-member House. With the Governor keeping strictly to the rule book, it is the role of the Speaker that has generated sharp controversy. The conflict has come to a head in the Himalayan state after Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal issued notices to nine rebel Congress MLAs, asking why they should not be disqualified for violating the party whip and aligning with the BJP. On its part, the BJP is alleging that the Speaker has failed to act impartially throughout the crisis; the saffron party with 28 MLAs is claiming support of the nine Congress rebels in giving a notice for no-confidence motion against the Speaker. What precipitated matters was the Speaker’s decision to go for a voice vote when the House on Saturday was taking up debate on passing the State budget. Claiming that the Harish Rawat government had lost majority support, BJP members demanded a division of vote which the Speaker disallowed. At this, the simmering dissidence within the ruling Congress boiled over as rebel Congress members including cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat crossed over to the Opposition benches. After announcing passage of the budget by voice vote, the Speaker hurriedly adjourned the House till March 28 as chaos erupted with BJP and rebel Congress MLAs sitting on a dhar in the well of the House. The Speaker later pooh-poohed allegations of partisan conduct and the Opposition’s no-confidence notice against him, asserting that members will first discuss and decide ‘whether the notice is valid or not’. Meanwhile, the disqualification notices issued by the Speaker has given a deadline of March 26 to the nine rebel Congress MLAs to submit their replies. The Speaker has already warned that the anti-defection law will be used against ‘whoever is found guilty of violating it’. In case the MLAs are disqualified two days prior to the floor test in the assembly, a sty political fallout is certain. With the BJP staking claim to form the next government in Uttarakhand and Chief Minister Rawat claiming the majority is still with him, the political battle has meanwhile reached New Delhi. The Congress is going hammer and tongs at the rendra Modi government for ‘talking federalism but destabilising Opposition governments selectively’ in the states, pointing to the developments in Aruchal followed by Uttarakhand. BJP leader and Union Fince minister Arun Jaitley has in turn blamed the Congress for its interl divisions, castigating the Uttarakhand Speaker for declaring the ‘failed Fince bill as passed even after a majority of MLAs had voted against it’. Whatever be the fate of the Congress government in Dehradun, yet another Speaker’s role will be up for close scrutiny.
Crisis in Uttarakhand