NEW DELHI: Is Uttarakhand headed for President’s Rule? In a re-run of the Arunachal crisis, the one facing the Harish Rawat government reached Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday with BJP MLAs and MPs along with nine Congress rebels from the state marching to the President’s durbar and senior Congress leader A K Antony leading a counter delegation thereafter.
BJP members demanded that Chief Minister Rawat be dismissed along with Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, who they alleged, acted in a partisan manner by allowing a voice-vote during the recent passage of the finance bill; the Congress seniors accused the BJP of horse trading to “pull down the government.” Rawat made the same allegation at a press conference in Dehradun earlier in the day, cancelling his morning trip to Delhi, on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s instriuctions aksing him to stay put in the state capital for fire-fighting.
In Uttarakhand, where the government-threatening crisis over the rebellion in the Congress, notably spearheaded by former CM Vijay Bahuguna and sacked minister Harak Singh Rawat, turned murkier with allegations of corruption in land deals by Rawat. On the way to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, BJP general secretary in-charge of Uttarakhand Kailash Vijayvargiya said, “Will request the President to dismiss the current government in Uttarakhand as they have lost the majority. Harish Rawat is now trying to buy people in a fit of desperation to gain support, but he will not succeed. It is his streak of corruption that has led to this situation.” As if in anticipation of the charges surfacing in Delhi, Rawat said at the press conference: “BJP has levelled three allegations against me related to the land allotment for the smart city project and helping the mining mafia. I want to say categorically that all allegations are baseless.”
On the issue of poaching MLAs, Rawat said, “It is clear that the money and muscle power of BJP is at play here.” But it was not the CM alone, the Speaker too came under fire as he issued a show-cause notice to the Congress rebels on charges of disqualification under the Ant-defection law, requiring them to reply by March 26, two days prior to the deadline set by Governor KK Paul to Rawat to prove his majority.
The angry BJP delegation, which met the President, harped on the point that by “disallowing a division of votes on the finance bill in the House, the Speaker deprived members of their right to vote as he knew the majority was against it (government) and it was bound to fall.” Meanwhile, the Rawat Government in a retaliatory move expelled Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saket Bahuguna and party joint secretary Anil Gupta for six years for “anti-party” activities. Before the crisis unfolded, the Congress had 36 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly.