A division bench of the Uttarakhand High Court Wednesday stayed until April 7 the floor test in the assembly slated for Thursday. The state remained on boil with the Congress and BJP stepping up efforts to keep their flocks intact while making inroads in rival camps.
The bench of Chief Justice K M Joseph and Justice V K Bist stayed the floor-test order of Justice U C Dhyani and posted the matter for April 6 for final hearing on a writ petition filed by ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat, challenging imposition of President’s rule in the state.
The order came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Centre, opposed the floor-test order saying courts cannot interfere with a presidential proclamation. “How can a floor test be ordered when a presidential proclamation is in force and the assembly is in suspended animation,” he said.
The bench noted that the AG and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Rawat, agreed that the writ petition which had given rise to these appeals be “withdrawn to this bench” and finally disposed.
While the matter was being heard in the High Court in Nainital, both the Congress and BJP were busy in Dehradun. The Congress was trying to break the rebel group of nine MLAs and return some to the party fold. The BJP, on the other hand, was going all out to ensure its lot remained intact.
Uttarakhand Congress president Kishore Upadhyay told The Indian Express that he was in constant touch with former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna who spearheaded the rebellion against Harish Rawat and brought down his government.
Sources said Congress leaders were in touch with rebels MLAs and the idea was to make them at least abstain from voting whenever the floor test takes place. Sources said there was no proposal to effect a leadership change although Rawat was said to be ready to step down as leader of the Congress legislature party to placate the rebels. He was willing to hand over the baton to one of his confidantes, sources said.
AICC general secretary Ambika Soni and Rawat held a closed-door meeting in the morning and then met Congress and Progressive Democratic Front MLAs over lunch at a hotel.
Meanwhile, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya and vice president Shyam Jaju arrived Wednesday morning at the party headquarters. Sources said 23 BJP MLAs were then driven to a resort, around 20 km from Dehradun. The MLAs, sources said, could be moved out of Dehradun to prevent any attempt at poaching.
After the High Court order, an elated BJP welcomed the order while the Congress, which was keen on a trial of strength, put up a brave face saying it had full faith in the judiciary.
Vijayvargiya said: “We welcome the High Court order because the single-bench had passed the order in a hurry and there was lack of clarity, confusion on how a floor test could be conducted under President’s rule. We are confident of proving majority. We had support of 36 MLAs the day we demanded division in the House. We have 36 MLAs with us today as well.”
Harish Rawat too welcomed the decision. “The High Court has also said it will hear the matter continuously on the merit of the decision to impose President’s rule. We welcome the order. When the suggestion came from the court and when it posed this question, we agreed with it in the interest of the state,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)
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