The Bharatiya Janata Party has received a severe setback, with the Uttarakhand high court’s order setting aside President’s rule in the hill state.
The Thursday order has two highlights: It will show the Centre and BJP in the poor light — the BJP appeared in a hurry to form the government in a state that was going to polls in less than a year from the start of the crisis. In the backdrop of a similar emergency in Arunachal Pradesh, the President’s rule in Uttarakhand had the opposition up in arms. Given its minority in the Rajya Sabha, garnering support in the Upper House for President’s rule will be tough.
Second, the order has come as a shot in the arm for former chief minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat, who embarked on a statewide tour immediately after the court pronounced it. Rawat is relieved, with his detractors walking out of the Congress and BJP owning up their anti-incumbency.
The BJP is also worried that the court’s order does not auger well for the Centre, which has been batting for cooperative federalism (a concept in which national, state governments work together to solve a problem).
Anxiety is palpable within the BJP, with the party apprehensive over Rawat getting the first shot to prove majority in the state. “There is enough time in his hand to maneuver things. We certainly wanted to avoid this,” a BJP functionary told HT.
The party, however, stands by the Centre’s decision on President’s rule, insisting there was a Constitutional crisis on March 18 when the speaker tried to pass the budget with voice vote without Rawat being in majority.
“There were certain technical errors on part of the Raj Bhawan that weakened our case. But there was a merit in imposition of President’s rule,” a BJP functionary said. Leaders accept they may not have articulated the fact.
The Rawat government had 36 members in the state assembly and its number was reduced to 27 after nine MLAs rebelled against the party. If the nine, who have challenged their expulsion, do not get an opportunity to vote, the effective strength of the assembly will come down to 62 and a party will need the support of 33 legislators to prove majority.