Uttarakhand assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal’s decision to disqualify nine rebel Congress MLAs is likely to hurt the party more as the BJP is now the single largest party in the House.
After the rebels’ disqualification, the strength of the Congress -- which had 36 MLAs in the 70-member House – stands reduced to 27, one less than that of the BJP which has 28 MLAs including a saffron rebel.
Going by convention, governor KK Paul will have to invite the BJP legislature party leader in any future exercise for the formation of new government.
The effective strength of the House comes down to 61 and any political grouping will require the support of at least 32 MLAs to form a government.
Earlier, the Congress had the support of one Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, three independent, and two Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs. The BJP had claimed the support of a BSP MLA.
But in the changed political scenario, the BJP gets more time to win over the support of independent MLAs and those belonging to Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and BSP.
Disqualification under anti-defection law
According to paragraph 2(1)(a) of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, a member can be disqualified if he/she “voluntarily gives up membership of a party” or when he/she votes (or abstains from voting) contrary to the directive issued by the party (paragraph 2(1)(b)).
In the 1994 Ravi Naik vs. Union of India case, the Supreme Court said, “Even in the absence of a formal resignation from membership, an inference can be drawn from the conduct of a member that he has voluntarily given up his membership of the political party to which he belongs.”
If the conduct of Congress rebels is observed in the context of the anti-defection law and the SC ruling in Ravi Naik’s case, it can be concluded that they have voluntarily given up their membership of the party.
The speaker has already disqualified the rebel Congress MLAs and the matter is now likely to go to the court. But unless the rebel MLAs’ disqualification is revoked, Congress remains number 2 in the House.
Parliament has to approve President’s rule
Once President’s Rule is imposed, the assembly ceases to function and the state comes under the central government’s direct control.
The assembly has been kept in suspended animation. The powers of the state assembly become exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament. The executive power shifts from the council of ministers to the governor.
But President’s Rule must be approved by both Houses of Parliament within a period of two months. It can’t last for more than six months unless its extension is approved by Parliament.
The only other way President’s rule can go is a court order. Uttarakhand Congress on Monday moved to the state high court at Nainital against imposition of President’s Rule in the state.
What if President’s rule is not approved by Parliament?
In SR Bommai’s case (1994), the Supreme Court said in case both Houses of Parliament do not approve president rule, the proclamation would lapse after two months. In such a situation, the dismissed government gets revives and the Legislative Assembly kept in suspended animation gets reactivated.
However, if President’s rule is approved by both Houses of Parliament within two months, the dismissed Government does not get revived on the expiry of period of Proclamation or on its revocation, the SC had said.
Similarly, if the Assembly has been dissolved after the approval under Article 356(3), it does not get revived on the expiry of the period of Proclamation or on its revocation, the SC had clarified.
Since the BJP does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, it’s highly unlikely that imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand will get Parliamentary approval as required under Article 356(3) of the Constitution.
But at this juncture it appears advantage for BJP as the saffron party has got enough time to garner support of independent MLAs and smaller parties in the House.