The Harish Rawat government in Uttarakhand is neck-deep in trouble. After the alleged poaching of Congress MLAs by BJP, party has now claimed that Rawat offered the rebel MLAs cash to stay with the party. A sting video, released by the rebel MLAs, shows the CM bargaining with rebel party MLAs and offering them money to win over their support during the floor test in the Assembly on 28 March. Rawat called the video 'fake.'
Congress alleged that the "dirty tricks department" of BJP president Amit Shah is at work, while the saffron outfit demanded "immediate dismissal" of the Rawat government.
A beleaguered Rawat on Saturday met the Assembly Speaker and backed the demand for disqualification of nine rebel Congress MLAs ahead of the difficult trial of strength on Monday as rivals traded charges on alleged bribes to win legislators.
Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had served notice to nine rebel Congress legislators, seeking their responses by 26 March on why they should not be disqualified from membership of the house under the anti-defection law for violating the party discipline and aligning with the opposition BJP.
After meeting Kunjwal, Rawat, who was issued a notice regarding the demand for disqualification, said he provided documents supporting the petition of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Indira Hridayesh seeking disqualification of the rebel MLAs.
The Congress party has sought the disqualification of sacked minister Harak Singh Rawat and former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and seven other MLAs on the ground they have voluntarily given up membership of the Congress by joining the BJP MLAs by shouting anti-government slogans in the Assembly and thus attract the provisions of the anti-defection law.
The Congress, which has a strength of 36 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly, faces revolt by nine MLAs, led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who are said to have voted against the government in the financial business last week.
Releasing the alleged 'sting video' in Delhi, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is leading the rebel MLAs, said, "The very content of that CD proves that you (Rawat) are using undue influence and bribe to attract the nine MLAs... He should resign on moral grounds."
"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," Rawat said at a hurriedly-called press conference at his residence in Dehradun.
Even though he called the CD "false", Rawat said if at all it indicates something, it is that the rebel MLAs have aligned with BJP for money.
In a statement, AICC's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala said, "Congress will not be cowed down by such tactics, conspiracies and threats. Even today, the Uttarakhand government enjoys majority. We will abide by constitutional directions and will prove our majority on the floor of the House."
BJP, meanwhile, demanded that the President should dismiss the current Congress government. BJP General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said Rawat has "no right to remain in power" even for a moment and said a party delegation will meet President Pranab Mukherjee to demand his intervention.
"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," he told a press conference in Dehradun.
On the possibility of the Assembly Speaker disqualifying the rebel Congress MLAs, a move which may result in the Rawat government winning the floor test, Vijayvargiya said a majority won "on the basis of horse-trading" will be against democracy.
"If needed, we will meet the Prime Minister," he said.
Asked about the possibility of BJP forming the government, he said the current dispensation must be sacked first so that "misuse of power is stopped".
He also refuted the Congress' charge that party chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were involved in the political activities in toppling the incumbent government, saying the constitutional crisis was caused by its internal bickering.
"The sting today exposed the allegations levelled by Rahul Gandhi and Harish Rawat about the BJP's involvement in the constitutional crisis. Harish Rawat has been exposed," he said.
Bahuguna said the chief minister should order an inquiry into the sting operation, carried out by a private news channel.
The Rawat government does not have majority in assembly, he said, demanding that President's rule be imposed in the state.
At the AICC briefing, Uttarakhand Congress president Kishore Upadhyay launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, accusing them of hatching a conspiracy to destabilise the Uttarakhand government which, he claimed, "enjoys majority".
"It is all the job of the externed Amit Shah and his dirty tricks department," he said, alleging that after destabilising Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand has come on the radar of the ruling party at the Centre.
He claimed that the Congress rebels and BJP were behind the "conspiracy of the fake CD" after they failed to get any relief from either the court or the Governor ahead of the crucial trust vote on Monday.
Upadhyay claimed he was in touch with six of the nine rebel MLAs but refused to divulge the names.
Asked whether the Congress is ready to "forgive and forget" if the rebels express willingness to return, he said, "In a family, if someone parts ways by resorting to some wrong steps, he could be taken back on merit."
Singling out former Chief Minister Bahuguna and former CLP leader Harak Singh Rawat, he said that they have "back-stabbed the party which had given them everything".
He said the two leaders instead of defending the Congress and its government with all their might, are seeking to create trouble.
Chief Minister Rawat blamed Modi, Shah and the rebel MLAs for the political crisis in Uttarakhand and said it was an unholy alliance to destabilise a democratically-elected government and derail the process of development in the state.
BJP MP and former chief minister Bhuvan Chandra Khanduri today alleged corruption is at its peak in Uttarakhand with liquor, land and mining mafia calling the shots everywhere in the state, after a sting video purportedly showed Chief Minister Harish Rawat bargaining with rebel Congress MLAs to win over their support.
"Corruption in Uttarakhand has reached its peak under the present regime. MLAs are being wooed in exchange for money. This is very unfortunate... Liquor, land and mining mafia are indulging in open loot of the state's resources and going scot free," Khanduri said in a statement here.
Nine Congress legislators led by Harak Singh had rebelled against the chief minister couple of weeks back when they sought a vote division on the floor of the house. The speaker rejected the demand.
Before the crisis, the Congress had 36 legislators in the 70-member assembly. The ruling party also has the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while the opposition BJP has 28 legislators.
With inputs from agencies