DEHRADUN: Suspense mounted today over the fate of nine rebel Congress MLAs of Uttarakhand ahead of the trial of strength on Monday as beleagured Chief Minister Harish Rawat backed the demand for their disqualification and rivals traded charges on alleged bribes to win legislators.
The deadline given to the the rebel MLAs for replying to the notices served to them by Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal under the anti-defection law came to an end this evening.
Meanwhile, the rebel Congress MLAs today alleged that they were offered bribe by Rawat for support during the floor test in the Assembly and released a video of a "sting" operation purportedly showing the CM, who called it "fake".
Congress alleged that the "dirty tricks department" of BJP president Amit Shah is at work, while the saffron outfit demanded "immediate dismissal" of the Rawat government. All eyes are on the Speaker's decision which will be crucial to the fate of Harish Rawat government facing a difficult confidence vote in the Assembly on Monday.
If the MLAs are disqualified by the Speaker under the anti-defection law they will cease to be members of the House reducing its effective strength from 70 to 61 which may make its easier for Rawat to scrape through the floor test with 27 MLAs of the Congress and six of ruling ally Progressive Democratic Front.
The Speaker had issued notices to the nine rebel Congress MLAs on March 19, a day after they created a furore in the state assembly along with opposition BJP members shouting anti-government slogans after their demand for a division of votes on the appropriation bill on the state's annual budget was turned down by the Speaker.
Vijay Bahuguna loyalist and Congress MLA from Narendra Nagar Subodh Uniyal, who is one of the nine rebel MLAs, met the Speaker earlier in the day to present the viewpoint of the rebel MLAs on the notices.
Uniyal was accompanied by nearly half a dozen lawyers including former advocate general and his brother U K Uniyal who was removed from the post soon after the MLAs revolted against the Harish Rawat government.
However, casting doubts on the Speaker's impartiality, Bahuguna later alleged that he did not give a fair hearing to Uniyal who had appeared on bahlf of the rebel MLAs. Top leaders including Rawat and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Indira Hridayesh met the Speaker to seek action against the rebel MLAs under the anti-defection law alleging that their conduct inside the state Assembly on March 18 bore testimony to their open rebellion against the party.
"In my capacity as the Leader of the House I have given my support to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Indira Hridayesh's earlier letter to the Speaker demanding action against the nine rebel MLAs on the ground that their conduct in the Assembly showed that they had voluntarily broken ranks with the party, " Rawat told reporters after his meeting with the Speaker.