After the much-awaited floor test was held in the Uttarakhand Assembly Tuesday, Congress MLAs came out of the House flashing smiles and victory signs. The Congress said it had the numbers and for once, the BJP didn’t disagree.
Former chief minister Harish Rawat smiled and flashed a V-sign but refused to put any numbers to today’s vote. “I respect the Supreme Court’s order to keep it secret but I am assured of the results,” said Rawat. The vote was held under the supervision of the Supreme Court, which is likely to officially unveil the result on Wednesday.
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Rawat’s colleagues could barely contain their excitement. “Rawatji won’t say anything but we are party workers and we are excited. We had 33 votes, the BJP got 28,” said Sarita Arya, Congress MLA from Nainital. The number was two more than what the Congress needed to prove its majority.
The floor test to prove the Congress government’s majority was held after a political battle that lasted over a month with the Centre imposing President’s Rule on March 27 after nine Congress MLAs voted with the BJP in the House on the budget-related Appropriation Bill on March 18. The House Speaker disqualified the rebels, and the decision was upheld later by the High Court and Supreme Court, which paved the way for the floor test.
On Tuesday, BJP’s Bhim Lal Arya, whom the party had initiated disciplinary action against six months ago, and Congress’s Rekha Arya cross-voted, while the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) with its four members and BSP MLAs threw their lot with the Congress. “The BJP had been spreading rumors about us that we would break away but we were always with the Congress,” said PDF leader Mantri Prasad Naithani.
The BJP leaders, who had been saying more Congress legislators would listen to the voice of their antar atma (inner voice) and vote against Rawat, had to be content with just Arya. “We didn’t have the numbers. Dhan aur bal aaj jeet gaye aur loktantra haar gaya (Money and muscle power won, democracy lost). But still, the Congress lost one more MLA today. Earlier, nine MLAs had left them, today one more was added to that tally, “ said BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi.
Madan Singh Bisht, the Congress MLA who was shown in a purported sting just two days before the floor test, claiming that he had got 12 Congress MLAs money to support Rawat, said, “We were always together. As for the sting, let me watch all of it and then I will take legal action.”
Addressing Congress workers in the afternoon, Rawat said Wednesday will bring a new beginning and urged the Centre to support Uttarakhand’s development. “I want to thank all my supporters, the Supreme Court and most of all the people of Uttarakhand. Pichle do mahenein ek bhayanak sapne ki tarah the (The last two months were like a nightmare). But I want to forget all this and move forward. I want to tell the Centre, if you can give us a helping hand, please do that. You are mighty people, we are just a small state,” said Rawat to the jubilant crowd that had collected at the Congress Bhavan in the heart of the city.
The official result may be a day away but the speculation that Rawat will call for early elections is growing louder. “It can be discussed later but we are in no hurry. Already, we have lost a lot of time and we now want to focus on development,” said senior Congress leader Hira Singh Bisht.
The party is expected to discuss the issue in the meetings they will hold after the results of the floor test are announced. “This will come up for discussion. We have a thin majority now. Nine MLAs had been disqualified bringing the strength of the house down to 61. It is difficult to predict but we are ready to go to the people. The environment is good for us, people are angry with the BJP. We are in any case prepared for elections next year, the organisation is ready, our senior leaders are ready. We have already lost two months in such a crucial time, there is a lot of development work to be done,” said senior vice president of the Uttarakhand Congress Suryakant Dhasmana.
BJP spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan said Rawat shouldn’t expect smooth sailing ahead. “We are where we were on the March 18. In fact, we have marginally gained because the Congress is poorer by one MLA. They have lost their tenth MLA and if they think it’s a small loss, then God help them. The episode has weakened Rawatji’s position and he doesn’t have the confidence of his MLAs nor of his leadership,” said Chauhan.