Dehradun/New Delhi: The Uttarakhand speaker has issued notices to the nine rebel Congress lawmakers who had met the governor on Saturday seeking dismissal of Chief Minister Harish Rawat.
According to NDTV, Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal has asked the lawmakers why their assembly membership could not be terminated and have given them time till 6 March to respond.
This comes after the political crisis in Uttarakhand took another turn on Saturday when Governor KK Paul gave Chief Minister Rawat a deadline of 28 March to prove majority in the state Assembly.
Rawat's Congress government is in crisis as BJP is claiming the support of rebel Congress MLAs and stepping up efforts to dislodge Rawat from the chief ministerial post. A BJP-led delegation that included nine rebel Congress MLAs met Governor Paul on Friday and claimed that the party has a majority in Uttarakhand Assembly and should be invited to form the government as the incumbent Congress dispensation has been reduced to a minority. However, Rawat on Saturday claimed that he was ready to prove his majority in the Assembly.
On a day of claims and counter-claims by BJP and the Congress, Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal said the "anti-defection law is in place and whoever is found guilty of violating it will have to be acted against".
"All Congress MLAs voted with the government when the previous bill was passed in the Assembly and nobody had challenged the bill. Even the BJP accepts the voice vote," he said.
Asked about BJP's no-confidence notice against him, Kunjwal said,"We will see when it comes in the Assembly. Members of the legislative Assembly will discuss and decide if the no-confidence notice is valid or not".
Hitting back at the BJP, Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of seeking to destabilise non-BJP governments through lure of money and political power.
"The duo of Modi and Shah are infamous for forcible eviction of elected governments in this country. Elected government are being destabilised by a sinister conspiracy. After Arunachal Pradesh, it is Uttarakhand," Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters in New Delhi.
In Dehradun, BJP intensified efforts to dislodge the Rawat government. "The Harish Rawat government has lost majority. Today BJP has the numbers with the support of rebel Congress MLAs to form a new government in Uttarakhand," Shyam Jaju, the state in-charge of BJP, told PTI.
Jaju said the party is willing to present the MLAs whose support it enjoys before President Pranab Mukherjee and insisted that Rawat should immediately resign given the loss of majority.
Nine rebel Congress MLAs have reached Delhi and are in touch with BJP leaders, he said.
Accusing BJP of misrepresenting facts, Rawat asserted that he still enjoys a majority in the Uttarakhand Assembly and was ready to prove it on the floor of the House.
"Those who are saying they have support of 35 MLAs are misrepresenting facts. I am confident that I still have a majority in the Assembly and can prove it on the floor of the House," he told reporters after emerging from a meeting with Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal.
Rawat said that five of nine rebel Congress MLAs were in touch with him.
The rebel MLAs included, Congress has a strength of 36 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly. The ruling party also has the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front. The BJP has 28 MLAs.
Rawat rubbished BJP's claims that it had the support of 35 MLAs including nine rebel Congress MLAs. Rawat said at least five of those MLAs have made it clear that "they are still with the party and continue to be members of the Congress Legislature Party."
He said the disgruntled MLAs should accept that they have made a mistake in backing BJP's bid at power.
A three-member BJP delegation of former chief minister and MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Jaju and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya met Governor KK Paul on Friday night after the simmering discontent within a section of Congress legislature came to the fore.
Amidst chaos in the Assembly, nine Congress rebels joined BJP in demanding a division of votes on the state's annual budget, which could have led to the government's fall.
Rebel Congress MLAs seen raising anti-government slogans along with BJP were mostly those owing allegiance to former chief minister and MLA Vijay Bahuguna. The other eight were Harak Singh Rawat, Amrita Rawat, Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion, Shaila Rani Rawat, Pradip Batra, Subodh Uniyal, a confirmed Bahuguna loyalist, Shailendra Mohan Singhal and Umesh Sharma.
Surjewala said BJP was resorting to such actions in the backdrop of poll debacle in Delhi followed by in Bihar which has "convinced" the ruling party at the Centre that it would not come to power in any state through popular vote.
"Is this the Modi culture of politics of transparency and accountability to lure away legislators...bypassing all constitutional norms?" he said.
Commenting on what transpired at his meeting with the Speaker, Rawat said he had gone to him to tender an apology as the Leader of the House for the "unparliamentary conduct of some party MLAs", who rushed into the well after adjournment of the day's proceedings and sat on a dharna along with BJP MLAs there.
Admitting that Congress MLAs had flouted the party whip by sitting on a dharna along with opposition members, he said they were liable to be acted against in accordance with the Constitutional provisions.
The chief minister said he was hurt by the behaviour of rebel party MLAs including Harak Singh Rawat and Vijay Bahuguna.
"As far as Harak Singh is concerned, the less said the better. He is such a star of Uttarakhand's political firmament. If one or two more such wrestlers are born in the state, Uttarakhand of our dreams will never become a reality," he said.
Rawat said he was shocked by Bahuguna's conduct in the House on Friday as he came from a family which always fought against communal forces.
"Coming as it did from the son of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna who always fought for secular values and stood against communal forces, Bahugunaji's behaviour was no less shocking," the chief minister said.