The BJP has distanced itself from the nine Congress MLAs who supported the rival party this budget session in the assembly and plunged chief minister Harish Rawat’s government into a crisis.
The possibility of early assembly polls could be a reason behind the BJP’s latest move after it staked claim to power on Friday with its 27 lawmakers and nine Congress dissidents led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna.
Governor KK Paul might exercise such an option if the ruling Congress and the opposition party fail to win the trust vote in the assembly, a BJP leader said.
The governor has asked the Congress to prove its majority by March 28.
The BJP prefers President’s rule to snap polls because it will be difficult to go to voters with the charge of destabilising the Rawat government by plotting a split in the Congress.
“The chief minister and his party will benefit if early elections are announced,” a BJP office bearer said. “We will instead prefer President’s rule, which will give us enough time to prepare ourselves for elections in 2017.”
The BJP’s change in tack was apparent from remarks of its leaders, who blamed infighting within the Congress for nine of its MLAs supporting the demand for a conscience vote on a money bill — the moot point that bared the crisis.
“It is wrong to accuse us of trying to engineer a split in the ruling party,” state BJP spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan said.
Sources said the BJP think-tank believes that far from being an asset, the nine Congress MLAs could be a burden for the party. The strategists are said to be particularly uncomfortable with two of the nine rebel MLAs: Bahuguna and axed minister Harak Singh Rawat.
“The general consensus within the party is that Harak Singh’s not-so-good public image could be a millstone around the BJP’s neck,” a source said.
“Similarly, Bahuguna too doesn’t have much acceptance among the people despite being a former chief minister.”
No wonder, none of the nine Congress MLAs accompanied the BJP legislators when they met President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday.
Sources said the BJP is not confident of winning the trust vote as the Congress rebels might face disqualification under the anti-defection law.
Such an eventuality will be a windfall for the Congress as the party will then need just 31 MLAs to win the trust vote. Without the nine rebels, the total strength of the 70-member House will be 61. The ruling party has claimed to have the support of 35 MLAs.