Rebel Congress legislators filed a petition in the Uttarakhand high court in Nainital on Friday, challenging the notices served by assembly Speaker Govind Kunjwal ahead of the floor test the Harish Rawat government will face on Monday, .
Though the court was closed on Friday, it was specially opened to hear the petition at Justice UC Dhyani court. Acting on the application of Congress chief whip Indra Hridyesh, the Speaker served notice to the nine rebels including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and former cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat on Sunday. The notice questioned their move to join BJP legislators on March 18 and chant anti-government slogans. The protesting Congress leaders, who were asked to submit a reply by Friday, instead moved the high court in response.
Accusing the Speaker of being unfair, former agriculture minister Harak Singh Rawat said, “Against rules Speaker served us notices. He has been given contradictory statements. Therefore we fear that he can take one sided decision (disqualify legislators) and moved court against the notice.”
Not counting the dissenting MLAs, both 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 simple majority, one needs 36 members in the house. BJP says they have the required numbers to form government. The Congress on the other hand, 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 Hindustan Times.
Sources say Congress can save its government with the support of three independents – one from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and two Bahujan Samaj Party members. However, the Speaker claimed that appropriation had been passed in the house on March 18 with a voice vote. If the Speaker considers the bill passed (with the rebels’ support), it will be technically difficult for him to take action against them.