The high court on Friday dismissed a petition of rebel Congress legislators challenging the Speaker’s notice, in what could be a much-needed boost to the Harish Rawat government, which will face a floor test on Monday.
Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia dismissed the petition noting that the Speaker has the right to take a call on the notice. The notice issued on March 19 questioned why the rebels joined BJP legislators on March 18 in raising anti-government slogans.
Speaker Govind Kunjwal had served notices to the nine rebels, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and former cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat, on the application of Congress chief whip Indra Hridyesh.
In a written response through an advocate, of which HT has a copy, the rebel legislators demanded a list of people who attended House proceedings on March 18, and sought copies of notices served against the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, and a video recording of the proceedings.
“Speaker served us notices against the rules,” Harak Singh Rawat said on Friday. “He has been giving contradictory statements. Therefore we fear that he can take one-sided decision (disqualify legislators).”
Not counting the dissenting MLAs, both the BJP and Congress have 27 legislators each in a house of 70 members. Nine rebels are with the BJP while one rebel BJP legislator is with the Congress. To prove a simple majority, a party needs 36 members in the house.
BJP claims it has the required numbers to form a government, while Congress plans to prove its majority after firing protesting members.
“It is a technical matter (to disqualify rebels) but Congress wants them out. They have let down (the) party,” state Congress president Kishor Upadhyay told HT.
Sources said Congress could save its government with the support of the three independents — one from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and two Bahujan Samaj Party members. However, the Speaker claimed that the Appropriation Bill was passed in the House on March 18 with a voice vote. If the Bill is considered passed (with the rebels’ support), it will be difficult for him to act against them.
However, a senior finance department official said the Appropriation Bill was yet to be sent to the governor for his assent.
The political rivals have been butting heads since the state plunged into political crisis on March 18. Over the past week, the income tax department has searched the offices of three people believed to be close to the government. These include liquor trader Rameshwar Hawelia, businessmen Inder Khatri, and Harendra Ladi, a businessman and a state cabinet-rank holder.
“[The] BJP will not hesitate in opening files of corrupt Congress leaders and associates if present regime is replaced with a new one,” said Shyam Jaju, BJP in-charge for party affairs in Uttarakhand.
In turn, Congress alleged that yoga guru Ramdev is behind the political crisis.
However, Ramdev told a TV channel that “if I want to topple or support a government, then I will do it openly”.