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Uttarakhand crisis: In Dehradun, BJP and Cong brace for big test

The run-up to the big day saw state leaders in a last-minute huddle with national leaders of both parties holding meetings the whole day.

Written by Devyani Onial | Dehradun |
Updated: May 9, 2016 9:23:20 pm
Dehradun: Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat addressing a press conference in Dehradun on Wednesday. PTI Photo (PTI4_20_2016_000158A) Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat (PTI Photo)

The road leading to the Vidhan Sabha in Dehradun is awash with the khaki of Uttarakhand Police and the blue of Rapid Action Force. Section 144 was imposed in the city from 5 pm and the buzz around the state’s constantly swinging political pendulum has reached a crescendo. After weeks of announcements and postponements, the stage is finally set for the floor test in Uttarakhand.

To be held under the strict guidelines of the Supreme Court, the floor test will decide whether Harish Rawat enjoys the confidence of the House or not. A specially convened two-hour session will be held in the Assembly between 10am and 1pm, for which President’s Rule will be kept in abeyance. The proceedings will be videographed and the result put in a sealed cover and placed before the Supreme Court on May 11.

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The run-up to the big day saw state leaders in a last-minute huddle with national leaders of both parties holding meetings the whole day. Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni, who is in charge of Uttarakhand, and the BJP’s national secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, national spokesperson Anil Baluni, national vice president Shyam Jaju and Tarun Vijay were all in the state capital ahead of the crucial vote.

The day began on a good note for the Congress with the Uttarakhand High Court dismissing the plea of the nine disqualified rebel MLAs. In the afternoon, the Supreme Court upheld the decision, maintaining that the nine will not be allowed to vote in the floor test tomorrow. The mood in the Congress camp turned celebratory with party workers streaming in to former chief minister Rawat’s residence, shouting slogans in his favour.

READ: Uttarakhand — Advantage Congress as rebels remain disqualified 

“I thank the Supreme Court for the verdict. Uttarakhand has witnessed a lot of uncertainty in these recent weeks. If we win, we will continue our work to develop the state,” said Rawat, whose government was dismissed by the Centre on March 27, just a day before he was to seek a vote of confidence in the state assembly.

Uttarakhand Congress president Kishor Upadhyay said it was also time for BJP to learn a lesson. “The BJP should learn from this that they can’t topple governments wherever they want. As for the rebel MLAs, they have got the result of what they did,” he said.

With the nine Congress MLAs disqualified — the strength of the House has been reduced to 61 (the 62nd is a nominated member) — the Congress seems to have the edge. The party now has 27 MLAs and the BJP 28, including rebel MLA Bhim Lal Arya. The Congress had the support of the six members of the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), which includes two legislators from the BSP, one from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) and three Independents.

BSP MLAs Haridas and Sarwat Karim Ansari have said they are no longer part of the PDF but that they still support the Congress. The final decision, they said, rests with party chief Mayawati.

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The BJP, meanwhile, had been hoping that the recent purported sting operations — one that featured Rawat and another Congress MLA Madan Singh Bisht — will hit the Congress before the crucial test. Their party leaders also claim that more disgruntled Congressmen will vote against Rawat tomorrow. “I have said it before, I will say it again, more people will listen to the voice of their ‘antar atma’ (inner voice) tomorrow,” said BJP state president Ajay Bhatt.

Sources said at least one Congress MLA is having second thoughts about voting in the floor test but with the Uttarakhand High Court and the Supreme Court upholding the disqualification of rebel legislators, the party is hoping the ruling will act as a cautionary tale for the rest of the flock.

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