Immoral govt or murder of democracy? Cong, Centre face off over President's Rule in Uttarakhand

New Delhi: Capping a nine-day high-voltage political drama, the Centre on Sunday brought Uttarakhand under President's Rule citing a Constitutional breakdown in the wake of a rebellion in the ruling Congress, which slammed the decision calling it a "murder of democracy" and a "black" day.

President Pranab Mukherjee signed the proclamation under Art 356 of the Constitution dismissing the Congress government headed by Harish Rawat and placing the Assembly under suspended animation this morning on the recommendation of the Union Cabinet.

The Centre was of the view that continuance of the Rawat government was "immoral and unconstitutional" after 18 March when the Speaker declared the Appropriation Bill "passed" in controversial circumstances without allowing a division pressed for by 35 MLAs, including nine rebel Congress legislators.

The Union Cabinet had held an emergency meeting in Delhi on Saturday night presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had cut short a visit to Assam to return to the capital for the purpose.

Immoral govt or murder of democracy? Cong, Centre face off over Presidents Rule in Uttarakhand

Harish Rawat and Arun Jaitley. Images courtesy: PIB/IBNLive

The Cabinet considered several reports received from Governor KK Paul, who had described the political situation as volatile and expressed apprehensions over possible pandemonium during the scheduled trial of strength in the state Assembly on Monday.

The purported CD of the sting operation conducted against the chief minister that was in public domain on Saturday was understood to have been factored into the decision of the Cabinet which found it as a case of horse trading.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is believed to have briefed the President late Saturday night explaining the rationale for the Cabinet's recommendation.

The dismissal of the Rawat government now renders Monday's confidence vote infructuous. It also came amidst reports that Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had disqualified nine rebel Congress MLAs that would have enabled Rawat to sail through in the trust vote.

Even as Congress cried foul, Jaitley justified the Centre's decision, saying the Harish Rawat government was "unconstitutional" and "immoral" since 18 March when the "failed" Appropriation Bill was shown as passed.

"There can be no better example of implementation of Article 356 (imposition of President's Rule)...There was complete breakdown of the Constitution in Uttarakhand," Union Minister for Finance and Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley told reporters.

"There were very good grounds for the Union Cabinet to recommend President's Rule in the state... The chief minister had lost majority on 18th (of March) and his continuation was unconstitutional and immoral," he said, adding it was the demand of time that the government should have been dismissed.

The Congress denounced the decision calling it a "murder of democracy" and said it showed that BJP did not believe in democracy.

"It's a blatant and brazen display of authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-Constitutional mindset of the Modi government," said Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha.

Today's action, he said, is a grim reminder of the threat the democratic institutions of the country are facing and accused the Modi government of having breached all records in trampling the democratic norms and Constitutional traditions.
Azad recalled that earlier a Congress government in Arunachal Pradesh was also "toppled by sheer abuse of power and money".

The political crisis in the state arose after the controversial circumstances in which the Appropriation Bill was declared passed in the Assembly by the Speaker with the BJP and the rebel Congress claiming that a division of votes pressed by them was not allowed.

They alleged that the Bill was defeated in the voice vote by a majority of the members present but the Speaker did not test it in a proper division of votes.

The Opposition claimed that it had a majority of 35 MLAs, including nine rebels, in the House that day out of 67 MLAs present. The BJP said the 35 MLAs had written to the Speaker in advance that they would be voting against the bill but the Speaker had refused to take it into his consideration.

On Saturday night, the Union Cabinet met amidst reports that the Speaker had disqualified the rebel Congress MLAs that would would have helped the beleaguered government.

Apprehending imposition of President's Rule, the Congress had attacked the BJP saying it was resorting to the extreme step as its earlier moves had failed.

While referring to the proceedings of 18 March, Jaitley said in the 71-member Assembly, 67 members, excluding the Speaker, were present out of whom 35 wanted Division of Votes on the Appropriation Bill.

The Division of votes was sought in writing in advance by the 35 members who also voted against the Bill, despite which the Speaker showed the legislation as passed, Jaitley said.

"The Speaker said in writing that 'the Division was sought but I treat the bill as passed'... This is for the first time in the history of Independent India that a bill is shown as passed even when it has been defeated. That was the first violation of the Constitution," said Jaitley.

The Appropriation Bill empowers the government to draw funds for expenses from April one and if it is defeated on the floor of the House, the government has to resign.

Among other reasons cited for dismissing the Rawat government were attempts to "change the composition of the Assembly", "allurements" allegedly offered by the chief minister and given to him to prove his majority.

However, Rawat alleged that the central rule was a result of a "premeditated conspiracy" hatched by the Centre to dislodge a democratically
elected Congress government in the state, Rawat also said the BJP was "thirsty for his blood" right from the day he assumed office on 1 February, 2014 and did not want his government to stabilise.

"It is a murder of democracy and the Constitution. Modi's hands are dipped in the blood of the trampled aspirations of the people of Uttarakhand," Rawat said at his first news conference in Dehradun after the imposition of President's Rule.

"What has happened is the result of a premeditated conspiracy hatched by the Centre to dislodge a democratically elected Congress government in the state," he alleged, adding there was a "propaganda blast" against him by raking up issues relating to alleged corruption.

Claiming that he had clear majority in the state assembly, Rawat said it was part of a conspiracy by the BJP to impose President's Rule even before giving the state government a chance to go for a floor test in the House. 

"What has happened in Uttarakhand is also the murder of Baba Sahab Bhimrao Ambedkar's vision on the Constitution maker's 125th birth anniversary
year," said Rawat.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2016 07:29:55 IST

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