Ousted Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Tuesday said that he was confident of proving his majority in the state assembly, after the High Court allowed a floor test despite the hill state being under President's Rule.
"We shall prove our majority on the floor on 31 March," Rawat said. He was addressing a news conference after the Uttarakhand High Court ordered a floor test in the assembly on Thursday in Delhi. This gave Rawat a chance to prove his legislative majority.
Rawat said the court's verdict was a slap on the face of those who tried to destabilise the state government. "The High Court's decision is a lesson for the law breakers and those who have tried to destabilise our government," the Congress leader told reporters.
Rawat condemned President's Rule that "badly hurt" the "people of Uttarakhand".
He asserted that his government will fight against the imposition of President's Rule and "the fight is based on principles". "Our fight for the Vidhan Sabha and to save the constitution will continue," he said. He welcomed the state High Court decision to give his government a chance to prove its majority on the floor of the assembly.
"It is a war of principles with central government. It is a victory for us," Rawat told reporters.
"Our fight is to protect the state assembly, democracy and the constitution. We are not fighting against any one person."
"This will stop the attempts to destabilise state assemblies where opposition parties are in power," Rawat said.
Hitting out on BJP, Congress leader Ambika Soni said, "They (BJP) have done nothing except fishing in troubled waters." They added, "Horsetrading allegations does not entail ‘constitutional breakdown’."
The Uttarakhand High Court on Tuesday ordered a floor test in the assembly on Thursday and gave ousted chief minister Harish Rawat a chance to prove his legislative majority in the hill state that is under President's Rule.
News reports also said that all MLAs will take part in the floor test, including the nine disqualified MLAs who will be allowed to participate during the proceedings of the assembly only during the floor test.
Reports further said that the result of the floor test will not be revealed immediately. CNN-IBN reported that the result will be enclosed in a sealed envelope by the Speaker and sent to the court.
Uttarakhand came under President's Rule on Sunday, a day before Rawat was to prove his majority in the house on Monday.
Hearing a petition by Rawat, the court also said that all nine Congress rebels who were disqualified by the speaker will be allowed to take part in the vote. It said the result of the voting should be presented to the court on Friday. The court has ordered a court registrar to oversee the vote in the assembly.
Congress spokesperson and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the ruling followed two days of extensive arguments.
"The High Court accepts the point that despite President's Rule there is enough scope for judicial review to allow a floor test to take place," he told the media, "This was asked by us."
"Mere horse trading allegations will not justify President's Rule and stop floor test," he added. He said the court has implemented what the governor had said thrice and what the chief minister has said twice.
Singhvi said the court has allowed the disqualified Congress legislators to take part in the voting but their vote would be taken into consideration separately.
A stunnned BJP said it was no victory for the Congress but described the court verdict to allow floor test during President's Rule as "unprecedented" .
"To order something like this during President's Rule is unprecedented," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said.
The Uttarakhand political crisis began when nine Congress legislators, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, whom Rawat replaced, revolted against the chief minister and turned to the BJP.
On 18 March, crisis worsened when the assembly passed the budget Appropriation Bill by voice vote even as more than half the members in the house sought a division, which would have led to recorded voting. The rebel Congress lawmakers supported the BJP's demand for the division. Speaker Govind Kunjwal declined the request.
Amid BJP cries that Rawat did not enjoy majority in the house of 70 members, the speaker asked the government to prove its majority on Monday.
The Congress rebel lawmakers were disqualified on Saturday and the BJP-led central government imposed President's Rule a day later.
With inputs from agencies