The Congress government won the trust vote in the Uttarakhand assembly, the Supreme Court declared on Wednesday, clearing the decks for the reinstatement of Harish Rawat as chief minister of the hill state.
Shortly after the top court’s order, the Centre recommended revocation of President’s Rule to Pranab Mukherjee, signalling the end of a nearly two-month political impasse in the state.
The verdict comes as a big setback for the BJP-led government at the Centre, accused by the Congress of trying to topple elected governments in opposition-ruled states.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was quick to react, saying “democracy (has) won in Uttarakhand”.
“Hope the PM learns the lesson that people of India and institutions built by our founding fathers will not tolerate murder of democracy,” he tweeted.
A bench of justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, however, held that justifiability of imposing President’s rule will remain alive as it has been challenged before the apex court after the Uttarakhand high court revoked the central rule.
“…the high court has ascribed many a reason to arrive at the conclusion that the said proclamation was not tenable in law,” it said.
It also noted that the nine disqualified MLAs have challenged the HC order and the matter is of debate. “Suppose we set aside the disqualification of the nine MLAs, there will be another floor test,” the court said.
Earlier, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said “it is clear from news and other reports that orderly vote did take place and Rawat proved his majority. I have taken instruction from the government and instruction from the very highest authority is that we will revoke the President’s rule.”
The official result of Tuesday’s floor test was on expected lines. Both the Congress and BJP leaders said that Rawat managed 33 votes, two more than the 31 required in a House with an effective strength of 62. The BJP managed 28 votes, the number of MLAs it has in the assembly.
Rawat’s government plunged into crisis on March 18 when nine of his Congress MLAs rebelled and sided with the BJP during the state assembly’s budget session.
Appeals and counter-appeals in court followed, leading the matter to the top court which finally asked Rawat to take the floor test.
The Supreme Court also barred the nine Congress rebels from taking part in the voting, held under the supervision of its observer and the entire process was video-graphed.
In between, Rawat, 68, also earned the distinction of serving as chief minister for just 24 hours – the shortest stint in the country – after the Uttarakhand high court revoked President’s Rule. The apex court later overturned the decision.
Rawat, however, refrained from targeting the Centre after the apex court order and said the state will need its support for progress.
Terming the impasse as a “closed chapter”, the Congress leader said the BJP-led central government “showed magnanimity” by informing the Supreme Court about the decision to restore his government.
“We need the central government’s support. We are a small state but our ambitions are big,” a beaming Rawat said,
The Congress attacked the Narendra Modi government in Parliament.
“Hope that the Centre would refrain from using Article 356 (by which President’s Rule is imposed on a state) and stop the murder of democracy,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said amid thumping of desks by party members including Sonia Gandhi.
The issue had rocked Parliament several times during the current session which began on April 25.
Congress workers celebrated in Dehradun, the state’s capital, by bursting crackers and beating drums.
A TIMELINE OF TURMOIL
- March 18: Rebel Congress legislatures and BJP join hands, demand division of votes on Appropriation Bill. Both move to Raj Bhawan
- March 19: Rebel Harak Singh Rawat sacked from Harish Rawat’s cabinet, Speaker issues notice ask rebels to submit reply by Mar 26; Governor ask Rawat to seek floor test on March 28
- March 19-20: Rebels and BJP move to New Delhi
- March 21: BJP march towards President’s house, complaints about constitutional crisis
- March 26: A secret video released, shows the former CM Rawat dealing for rebels. Union cabinet meets the same day, recommends imposition of President’s Rule in state
- March 27: President approves Central rule. BJP, rebels welcome the move; Congress fumes. Speaker disqualifies nine rebel Congress MLAs
- March 29: Congress moves HC against Prez Rule, single bench of HC asks for a floor test
- March 30: Double bench of HC stays the single bench order. Asks Congress and Union govt to reply
- April 4: Union govt files counter affidavit, gives reason behind imposition of Prez Rule
- April 5: HC refuses to stay disqualification of nine rebels and posts the matter for April 23
- April 21: HC revokes Prez rule after Centre fails to commit that it will not revoke its rule for a week, Centre decides to challenge the HC order in the Supreme Court. Rawat suo moto assumes CM’s office
- April 22: The Supreme Court stays the HC ruling revoking Prez rule
- May 6: SC orders a floor test in the state assembly on May 10
- May 9: SC bars rebel MLAs from voting in the Uttarakhand floor test
- May 10: Congress claims victory in Uttarakhand after a tight trust vote in the assembly; SC to declare official result on Wednesday
- May 11: SC declares the Congress government has won floor test in Uttarakhand assembly
They were disqualified from participating in the floor test which took place on Tuesday.
Read more about them here.
The law was added to the Constitution as the tenth schedule by the 52nd amendment during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure in 1985 and it aimed to check the ‘Aya Ram, Gaya Ram’ (frequent defection by legislators) phenomenon in Indian politics.
Read more about disqualification, expulsion and splits and mergers under the anti-defection law here.