High drama in Himachal cabinet as two ministers stay absent, two leave midway | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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High drama in Himachal cabinet as two ministers stay absent, two leave midway following ‘heated debate’

By, Shimla
Mar 03, 2024 04:26 AM IST

High drama unfolded during the Himachal Pradesh cabinet meeting on Saturday as state ministers — Vikramaditya Singh and Harshwardhan Chauhan — remained absent.

High drama unfolded during the Himachal Pradesh cabinet meeting on Saturday as two state ministers — Vikramaditya Singh and Harshwardhan Chauhan — remained absent, while the other two left midway following a “heated debate” over policy decisions, as political crisis in the ruling Congress continued unabated.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu presides over a Cabinet Meeting in Shimla on Saturday. (ANI)
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu presides over a Cabinet Meeting in Shimla on Saturday. (ANI)

Crisis began in the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu-led government on February 27 after the Congress slumped to an embarrassing defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls, with party candidate Abhishek Singhvi receiving 34 votes after six party lawmakers and three independents previously backing the government supported BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan, who also received 34 votes. The tie was then resolved by a draw of lots, which favoured Mahajan.

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The defeat fuelled speculation that the Sukhu government was reduced to a minority, sparking calls for his resignation. But speaker Kuldeep Pathania disqualified the six rebel MLAs for defying the party whip, giving the Congress some breathing room by bringing down the total numbers in the house to 62 members.

Also Read | Disqualified Himachal Pradesh Congress MLA reveals next move

The crisis, however, seemed far from over on Saturday when PWD minister Vikramaditya Singh and education minister Harshwardhan Chauhan skipped the cabinet meeting, chaired by the CM.

The development comes a day after Vikramaditya -- son of six-time chief minister Virbhadhra Singh -- travelled to Panchkula to meet the Congress’s six rebel legislators, and then made his way to New Delhi amid speculation that he may be open to switching sides to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

People familiar with the matter, however, said that Vikramaditya could not attend the meeting as he was on a visit to Rajasthan’s Udaipur for “personal work”.

Vikramaditya had earlier created ripples on Wednesday, when he resigned from the cabinet accusing Sukhu of disrespecting his father’s legacy, but backtracked on his resignation on Thursday evening after meeting central observers Karnataka deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and the Congress’s Himachal in-charge Rajeev Shukla.

Also Read | ‘Some rebel MLAs want to return to Congress,’ claims Himachal Pradesh CM

Chauhan, who was also absent from the meeting, recently lost the Ayush department in the cabinet rejig and was later assigned the labour and employment department, and was reportedly dissatisfied. His office, however, said that the minister was in Chandigarh for a routine health check-up.

Meanwhile, education minister Rohit Thakur left the cabinet meeting midway after a “heated debate over a disagreement in decisions regarding the education department”. Thakur, however, told the media later that he left as he was “emotionally disturbed because of personal reasons”.

“We are Pahari people and we get emotional, I dropped my son at his hostel in the morning,” he said.

According to people familiar with the matter, Thakur’s relationship with the chief minister got strained when the technical education department was reassigned to newly inducted minister Rajesh Dharmani recently, and Thakur was subsequently assigned the additional responsibility of printing and stationery.

Another minister who left the meeting midway — revenue minister Jagat Negi — said he left to attend another engagement.

Earlier in the day, rebel state Congress MLA Rajinder Rana claimed that nine more party legislators “feeling suffocated” due to Sukhu’s style of functioning are in touch with him as he called the chief minister “liar number one”.

“Neither Public Works Department Minister Vikramaditya Singh had told the chief minister that he is meeting the Congress rebels at Panchkula nor the CM had sent him,” Rana told news agency PTI in an interview, terming Sukhu “liar number one”.

Sukhu on Friday said he gave the go-ahead to Vikramaditya Singh to meet the rebels who cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha polls, in what appeared to be a placatory gesture even as he called the same six MLAs “black serpents”.

Rana, along with five other Congress MLAs who had cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha polls, have been disqualified from the assembly for abstaining from voting on the cut motion and finance bill.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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