Uttarakhand crisis: Delhi imposes its rule on Dehradun

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley argued that there was “no better example for invoking Article 356” to remove an “unconstitutional” government.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: March 28, 2016 9:13 am
uttarakhand, President's rule, President's rule in uttarakhand, President's rule uttarkhand, uttarakhand crisis, uttarakhand president's rule, pranab mukherjee uttarkhand, uttarakhand pranab mukherjee, india news The dismissal of the Rawat government now renders tomorrow’s confidence vote infructuous.

PRESIDENT’S rule was imposed in Uttarakhand and the state assembly kept in suspended animation after President Pranab Mukherjee signed a proclamation under Article 356 on Sunday, just a day before Chief Minister Harish Rawat was slated to face a floor test to prove the Congress government’s majority.

The move sparked a political firestorm in Delhi as the Congress accused the BJP-led NDA government of “murdering democracy” and threatened to approach the court while Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley argued that there was “no better example for invoking Article 356” to remove an “unconstitutional” government.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, accused the BJP of re-enacting the Arunachal Pradesh script. “It is a blatant and brazen display of the authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-Constitution mindset of the government,” said Azad, adding that the latest move was “a grim reminder of the threat” that democratic institutions were facing.

Azad was referring to the imposition of President’s rule on January 24 in Congress-ruled Arunachal Pradesh, after 21 of the ruling party’s 47 MLAs rebelled with support from the BJP. In Dehradun, meanwhile, Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal said that under the anti-defection law, he had disqualified the nine Congress MLAs whose rebellion and association with the BJP earlier this month had triggered the latest crisis.

According to sources, the Centre recommended imposition of President’s rule to Mukherjee late on Saturday night, shortly after a decision to the effect was taken at an emergency meeting of the Union Cabinet called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 9:30 pm on Saturday.
After the Cabinet meeting, said sources, Jaitley briefed the President about Governor K K Paul’s reports on the volatile political situation in the state and conveyed the Cabinet’s recommendation for President’s rule.

At the Cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister’s residence for around one-and-half hours, the Cabinet took stock of the developments in the state, discussed reports sent by the Governor, and also a sting video released by rebel Congress MLAs purportedly of Chief Minister Rawat indulging in horse-trading to save his government.

Releasing the video on Saturday, rebel Congress MLA Harak Singh Rawat had alleged that Rawat was trying to bribe the rebels and a few other BJP MLAs to support him. He also alleged that the rebel MLAs have been receiving life threats. The MLAs had rebelled against the Chief Minister on March 18, when they sought a vote division on the floor of the House on the Appropriation Bill. The Speaker, however, rejected the demand and passed the Bill on a voice vote.

Prior to the crisis, the Congress had 36 legislators in the 71-member assembly, including a nominated member. It also had the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while the Opposition BJP has 28 legislators. The Speaker had later served notice to the rebel MLAs, seeking their responses by March 26 on why they should not be disqualified for violating party discipline and aligning with the BJP. Kunjwal said the decision to disqualify the legislators under the anti-defection law had been taken on the basis of evidence and after hearing their lawyers’ response to the notices served to them on March 19.

Read | President’s rule in Uttarakhand: ‘It’s murder of democracy’, says Congress

Governor K K Paul had given Rawat time till March 28 to prove his majority on the floor of the House. On Sunday, Paul held a meeting with Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh and DGP B S Sidhu, a Raj Bhawan press release said. Later, former D-G CRPF Prakash Mishra and ex-Union Culture Secretary Ravindra Singh were appointed as advisors to the Governor.

In Delhi, Jaitley said there were “cogent, relevant and extremely important grounds” on which the Union Cabinet had decided to make a recommendation to the President. He said that Rawat had been running an “unconstitutional and immoral” government since he lost a majority in the Assembly. “There was complete breakdown of the Constitution in Uttarakhand,” he said.

Referring to the events of March 18, Jaitley said that Kunjwal had declared the legislation as passed even though a division of votes was sought in writing in advance by the 35 members, including the rebels, who also voted against the bill. “That was the first violation of Constitution” he said.

Governor Paul, according to Jaitley, also mentioned that he had “serious doubts” over what had happened in the Assembly that day in his report. The Appropriation Bill empowers the government to draw funds for expenses from April 1 — it cannot continue in office if it is defeated on the floor of the House. The Congress, on the other hand, said it would raise the issue in Parliament, apart from approaching the courts. “We will approach courts and file a petition demanding striking down of the imposition of President’s rule. We will approach the High Court,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal.