The Harish Rawat-led Congress government in Uttarakhand will take a floor test in the House on Monday as the state is facing a political crisis of sorts after nine party lawmakers turned hostile and rebelled against the party. Things became murkier on Saturday after the rebel MLAs released a sting video that purportedly showed Chief Minister Rawat indulging in horse-trading.
The rebel fraction includes prominent faces of the party such as former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat.
Bahuguna had to make way for Rawat after the party high command asked him to step down on account of corruption allegations.
According to sources, he was in touch with the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) for some time and the plan was to topple the government in November itself with the help of 11 other lawmakers. However, three of them reportedly backed out at the last moment.
Earlier, on 20 March, Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal issued show cause notices to the nine rebel MLAs and they could be disqualified under the anti-defection law, which was included in the constitution by Rajiv Gandhi government in 1985.
Speaker Kunjwal is expected to announce his decision on the fate of the nine rebel MLAs on Sunday. If the rebels members are disqualified, the Congress government might pass the floor test with a wafer-thin majority.
Meanwhile, the Opposition BJP has claimed that 35 MLAs, including the nine rebel MLAs, have issued a notice of no-confidence motion against the speaker, accusing him of failing to conduct the proceedings in the House in an impartial manner.
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What can be expected?
The Uttarakhand assembly consists of 71 members out of which one is a nominated member. The Congress government currently has 36 MLAs, including the nine rebel lawmakers. The Congress party enjoys support from three independent members of the house. On the other hand, BJP is the second largest party in the House with a total of 28 seats.
If the speaker disqualifies the nine rebel MLAs on Sunday, the house strength will come down to 62 MLAs, excluding the nominated member.
The Congress will be left with 27 seats, one less than the BJP. However, one of the BJP lawmakers Bhimlal Arya may abstain from the floor test as he has been working for the Congress party for some time.
Any party which will receive a minimum 31 votes, the halfway mark in the reduced House, will be able to stake claim to form the government in Uttarakhand.
Therefore, as per the current situation, if the speaker disqualifies the rebel MLAs, the current Congress government is expected to retain power. On the other hand, if that doesn’t happen, the BJP might be in a stronger position with a total 37 members in the House to support it (including Bhimlal Arya).