Dehradun: Amid ongoing uncertainty over the fate of Harish Rawat government which will face floor test in Uttarakhand Assembly on 28 March, the BJP on Wednesday claimed at least five more MLAs from the Congress-led alliance are ready to jump over to its side.
"There are at least five more MLAs in the Congress led alliance including some occupying ministerial positions only biding their time to switch over to our side," Chief Spokesman of the Pradesh BJP Munna Singh Chauhan told PTI.
"They are in touch with us and will happily jump over to our side in case the arithmetic of the state Assembly veers towards a tie during voting in the House on March 28," he said.
Though he refused to disclose the names, Chauhan said they were both from the Congress and its ruling partner the six-member Progressive Democratic Front – a conglomerate of Independents and political parties.
"The resentment against Harish Rawat’s autocratic style of functioning in the party is deeper than it may appear at first sight. It is not confined to the nine rebel MLAs who have openly revolted against him. There are others equally unhappy and are secretly waiting for a change-over. They will align with us as and when the opportunity presents itself," he said.
Chauhan claimed as per the rules, State Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal cannot disqualify the nine rebel MLAs under the Anti-Defection law.
"The law is very clear in this regard. The Speaker can disqualify a member under the anti-defection law only on two grounds. One, defying party whip in the House and two, defecting to another party. None of these apply to the nine rebel MLAs who have neither violated the whip nor defected to any other group or party," he said.
Elaborating on this Chauhan said how can the "rebel MLAs be accused of defying the party whip when the Speaker himself disallowed a division of votes on the appropriation bill in the House?"
Even if the Speaker’s announcement that the appropriation bill was "passed by voice vote by implication means there was no violation of the party whip," he contended.
"However, if the Speaker ventures into any kind of adventurism and rushes to disqualify the rebel MLAs his action will not stand the scrutiny in a court of law," he warned.
Uttarakhand Assembly has an effective strength of 70 MLAs excluding a nominated member who does not have voting rights. With nine of its MLAs aligning with BJP, Congress is left with only 27 members of its own besides six members of PDF who are backing Harish Rawat government.
BJP, on the other hand, has 28 MLAs including Bhim Lal Arya whose loyalty is "doubtful". Though winning on a BJP ticket, Arya makes no bones about his views against the party which has suspended him. Hence, the party is counting primarily on 27 MLAs of its own and the nine Congress rebels.
The Congress has pinned all its hopes on the prospect of the Speaker disqualifying the nine rebels which will reduce the effective strength of the House to 61 and also reduce the requirement for a simple majority to 31. It is likely to make Harish Rawat's task easier who may sail through the floor test with a total of 33 MLAs -- Congress' 27 and PDF's six.
However, BJP said Rawat could not even take PDF's support for granted as its constituents were mostly "independent entities" who did not have to prove their loyalty to a political party and could switch their allegiance.