A victory for former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat in Tuesday’s trust vote will not only lift the spirits of the beleaguered Congress but also discourage the BJP from subjecting non-NDA-ruled states to similar strategies in the future.
Such an eventuality, coming nearly two months after nine Congress legislators rebelled against the Rawat leadership in the house, may further unite non-BJP parties against the country’s ruling party. In the wake of losses in Delhi and Bihar, the BJP has been desperately looking for electoral gains in five states – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry – to disprove critics who claim that the Modi wave has lost momentum.
Rawat’s possible win would weigh heavily on the BJP, even though state leaders claim a moral triumph and accuse the former chief minister of “using money power”, further emboldening Opposition parties to take on the Narendra Modi-led government. On the other hand, the morale of the vertically divided Uttarakhand BJP – which was unable to draw maximum political mileage from the rebellion in the Congress – would take a veritable hit.
Not everybody in the BJP was on the same page with regard to the strategy deployed in Uttarakhand. In fact, the act of luring rebel Congress MLAs – most of whom do not enjoy a good reputation – was widely questioned within party circles in hushed tones.
Sources said Rawat enjoyed the support of 27 Congress legislators, besides six PDF members and a rebel BJP MLA.
A win for Rawat will do the Congress considerable good, acting as a morale-booster against the BJP in the coming days. It may also portray the former chief minister’s detractors as a power-hungry lot, and earn him some sympathy from the voting public.
The projected outcome of the floor test will also show how the Congress had exercised good sense in sticking by Rawat, unlike the BJP – which juggled between Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Satpal Maharaj (who, incidentally, had crossed over from the Congress a few years ago). This created discord in party circles, especially among Koshyari loyalists.
A loss for Rawat would have provided the BJP with an advantage ahead of the assembly elections, vindicating the imposition of President’s rule in the state. The party also made a miscalculation in thinking that the deposed chief minister will not have the required numbers after nine rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified by speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal.
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
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.