Uttarakhand’s deposed chief minister Harish Rawat requested governor KK Paul on Monday to revoke the suspension of the assembly while his party petitioned the high court against President’s rule in the state.
The Congress government of Rawat, who became chief minister in 2014 after an intense intra-party power struggle, was dismissed and central rule was imposed on Sunday after days of political upheaval in the hill state as nine dissident lawmakers joined the rival BJP to stake claim to power.
Rawat, who was ousted a day before a scheduled floor test to prove his majority in the House, claimed to have the support of 34 MLAs.
“President’s rule was an arbitrary decision of the BJP-led Union government, defeating the basic tenets of democracy and Constitution. We have all respect for constitutional authorities unlike the BJP or the Narendra Modi government at the Centre,” Rawat said on Monday.
“That’s why we went to the governor to apprise him of our majority in the House and at the same time approached the high court to plead for revocation of the suspension of the state assembly.”
He paraded 32 legislators, including five members of the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), in front of the governor and submitted two memorandums carrying signatures of 34 MLAs. A BJP dissident and a BSP lawmaker were absent from the show of strength as they were unwell, Congress legislator Manoj Tiwari said.
The Congress and alliance partner PDF told the governor that Rawat still enjoys the support of 34 MLAs to run a stable government in a 61-member assembly — reduced from the original 70 after the disqualification of nine rebels under the anti-defection law.
They requested the governor to clear the finance bill for a Rs 40,000-crore budget for the 2016-17 fiscal, which the now-dissolved government claimed to have passed on March 18.
The Rawat government plunged into crisis when the bill was tabled in the assembly and rebel Congress lawmakers, led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, joined the opposition BJP in protesting against the proposed legislation.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said Rawat should have quit over the finance bill. “This leaves the state without any approved financial expenditure with effect from 1 April, 2016. What better evidence do we need of a breakdown of Constitution? The Congress government of Uttarakhand was murdering democracy every day from the 18 March till 27 March,” he wrote on Facebook.
But the Congress-PDF delegation informed the governor that his assent cannot be kept on hold as no provision of the Constitution allows that.
“No other agency can pass the appropriation bill for Uttarakhand other than the state legislature. The Lok Sabha can make budgetary provisions for the state only if the state assembly is dissolved,” Rawat said after his meeting with Paul.
“We provided all documentary and constitutional evidence that the governor cannot hold on to the appropriation bill passed by the state legislature and is bound to give his assent.”
The Nainital high court heard the Congress’s writ petition against President’s rule in the state. Party spokesperson and Supreme Court lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Rawat, argued that the state was brought under central rule to sabotage the constitutional process since the governor had asked the Congress government to take a floor test on Monday.
“Invocation of Article 356 (of the Constitution) in Uttarakhand is absolutely illegal, arbitrary and malafide and, therefore, its invocation should be quashed and the Harish Rawat government restored,” he said.
(With inputs from HTC, New Delhi)