Uttarakhand speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal on Sunday issued notices to nine rebel Congress MLAs, asking why they should not be disqualified from the membership of the House for violating the party whip and aligning with the opposition BJP.
The notice – pasted by the Dehradun administration outside the apartments allotted to them at the transit hostel here – seeks a point-wise clarification from the MLAs on the reason behind their joining BJP members in raising slogans inside House against the party leadership, besides a detailed explanation for their meeting the governor to lodge a complaint against the government. The rebel MLAs – Vijay Bahuguna, Subodh Uniyal, Pradeep Batra, Shailarani Rawat, Harak Singh Rawat, Kunwar Pranav, Shailendra Mohan Singhal, Amrita Rawat and Umseh Sharma – have been asked to respond in seven days.
The Uttarakhand government was hit by a fresh crisis on Friday, when nine rebel Congress MLAs stood with BJP members during the voice vote to object to the passage of the finance bill. Uttarakhand governor KK Paul has asked chief minister Harish Rawat to prove his government’s majority by March 28, even as the BJP sought its dismissal.
The speaker’s notice was served after Indra Hridyesh, the chief whip of the Congress, filed a complaint against them. Reports have also emerged that Kunjwal may disqualify the rebels on March 28, when the government faces a floor test.
Rebel legislators, however, said the document cannot be considered legal when they had already submitted a notice against Kunjwal and deputy speaker AP Maikhuri to the Vidhan Sabha secretariat. “We submitted a notice (against the speaker and deputy speaker) on March 18. When the Speaker himself is under question, then what right does he have to serve us notice?” Congress rebel Umesh Sharma ‘Kau’, who is camping in Delhi, asked HT over the phone.
The Congress MLA, who enjoys close ties with former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, said he and his colleagues were not against the party itself. However, Sharma refused to say whether he was open to reconsidering his stand, instead asserting that the number of rebels would increase in the days to come.
“I am confident that six more MLAs will join us, and our number will reach 15. We are now a separate group within the Congress,” the first-time MLA from Raipur constituency said.
Chief minister Harish Rawat has claimed that five of the rebel MLAs were in touch with him, and could return to his fold soon. But the rebels, who went to Delhi to meet the BJP brass, are keeping their cards close to their chest.
Sources say the chances of the Congress rebels joining the BJP are remote, and it was more likely that they would form a separate group. Deputy speaker AP Maikhuri, on the other hand, admitted that the political developments had given rise to a significant legal question. “We are seeking expert opinions. The expert will see who served the notice first (the rebels or the speaker),” he told HT.
Rawat, however, didn’t seem too stressed by the sudden uncertainty in the state’s political atmosphere. In what could be an attempt to send a message that “everything is under control”, he was seen going about his normal schedule for the month – including playing Holi with party workers – without dwelling a lot on the problems at hand.
Nevertheless, sources say that he may soon rush to Delhi to hold talks with the central leadership. “The central leaders are in touch with the CM. Rawatji is in Doon now, and going about his scheduled meetings,” Rawat’s spokesperson Surender Kumar told HT.
In the house of 70 legislators, Congress needs the support of 36 members to prove its majority. It currently has exactly that number, while the BJP has 28, Bahujan Samaj Party has two and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal has one. Three other members are independents.