Himachal CM Sukhu says 'will run govt for 5 years'; Crisis deepens after cross voting in RS Polls

| | Shimla
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Himachal CM Sukhu says 'will run govt for 5 years'; Crisis deepens after cross voting in RS Polls

Thursday, 29 February 2024 | PNS | Shimla

In the backdrop of a political crisis in Himachal Pradesh after the defeat of the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Wednesday asserted that they will run the government for five years.

''Neither the high command has asked me nor anyone else for resignation and there is no such thing,'' Sukhu said. In a stunning upset for the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP on Tuesday won the state's lone Rajya Sabha seat with its candidate Harsh Mahajan defeating Congress stalwart Abhishek Manu Singhvi and apparently setting the stage for a no-trust motion in the assembly.

''But I want to say one thing that the people of Himachal are with us and MLAs are with us and I can definitely say that we will run the Himachal government for five years,'' said Sukhu.

Asked whether it was because of the ''Operation Lotus'' or ''own people'' that led to the current situation, the chief minister said, ''Some mistakes may have been made and because of those mistakes, there may have been some deficiencies.'' But he also said, ''The kind of 'tantar-mantar' used in the Operation Lotus that had bigger (role) in it.'' The voting on Tuesday was a tie with both the Congress and the BJP candidates getting 34 votes, indicating that at least six Congress MLAs voted against the party.

The result was then declared on the basis of a draw of lots.

Meanwhile, as the Congress government faces a threat, the party high command said it was weighing all options and would not hesitate in taking ''tough decisions'' to ensure that the people's mandate given to it is respected.

Six Congress MLAs voted in favour of the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, with sources claiming they are ''disappointed'' with the working style of Chief Minister Sukhu.

The party has dispatched three senior observers -- Bhupesh Baghel, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and D K Shivakumar -- to Shimla. AICC in-charge of state Rajeev Shukla is also in the hill state.

Congress president Kharge has asked observers and Shukla to speak with all MLAs, including those disgruntled, hear their point of view, and submit a comprehensive report to him soon. The future course of action will be decided after that.

The BJP was trying to come to power in Himachal Pradesh through the ''backdoor'', AICC General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said in Delhi, adding that the BJP did so in Goa, Madhya Pradesh and the latest attempt is in Himachal Pradesh. He also said that accountability will be fixed for cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha poll in the state, which the Congress nominee Abhishek Singhvi lost.

Our priority is to save the Congress government, he said, adding that  all options are open and the mandate that the Congress got has to be respected. The Congress leader said the report that will be submitted to Kharge will have two parts -- why did cross-voting happen and the other is what steps are needed to save people's mandate in the state. The BJP cannot take away the mandate of the people of Himachal Pradesh through its 'Operation Lotus' and the Congress will take all steps necessary to protect it, Ramesh said.

''The Congress will not hesitate in taking tough decisions as the party is our priority and we will not let people's mandate be betrayed in Himachal Pradesh,'' Ramesh told reporters.

The Congress rebels are seeking to install a person of their choice as the new chief minister of the state. 

Minister Vikramaditya Singh resigns from Sukhu cabinet, Speaker suspends 15 BJP MLAs; Budget passed

In a day of dramatic developments, high-profile minister Vikramaditya Singh, the son of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh, resigned as a Minister from the Sukhu Cabinet. His mother Pratibha Singh is the state Congress President and was a candidate for chief ministership when the Congress won the elections in December 2022.

The crisis was triggered by Tuesday’s cross-voting by six Congress MLAs in the Rajya Sabha election for the lone seat from Himachal Pradesh.

Singh, who sent his resignation to the Governor as well as the chief minister said, ''There have been attempts to humiliate and undermine me from some quarters and in spite of reservations, I supported the government.'' 

The family has in the past thrown hints that Virbhadra Singh’s legacy has not been honoured by the party. Pratibha Singh has also expressed disgruntlement with the manner in which Sukhu has run the state. Vikramaditya Singh said the 2022 Congress campaign was run in his father’s name. ''There was no poster, or hoarding or banner which did not carry his picture,” he said.

But after the victory when the matter of putting up his statue came up, the government failed to decide the location. ''It is not a political but an emotional thing for a son,'' he said.

''The Congress party had made promises to the people and we owe the responsibility to fulfil those promises and I would decide my future course of action after consulting my supporters,'' he added.

Meanwhile, in the ongoing Budget session of the Assembly, the Speaker suspended 15 BJP MLAs. The suspended BJP MLAs, which included the leader of the opposition Jai Ram Thakur, stayed put in the House for a long time -- in an apparent bid to stop the House from passing Sukhu government’s Budget through voice vote.

The BJP wanted voting on the Budget, which they felt would reveal that the Congress has lost its majority in the state assembly.

But in the afternoon, the crisis was staved off as the Finance Bill was passed by voice vote with no Bharatiya Janata Party member being present. Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania then adjourned the House sine die.

In the assembly, there was chaos when the House met in the morning with passing the Budget on its list of business for the day. Speaker Pathania suspended 15 BJP MLAs.  Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan Chauhan moved the motion, seeking their suspension for allegedly disrespecting the Speaker. The motion was adopted by voice vote.

The BJP members, however, refused to leave. The Speaker then adjourned the House till 12 pm.

Apart from Thakur, the suspended MLAs are Vipin Parmar, Vinod Kumar, Hans Raj, Janak Raj, Balbir Verma, Trilok Jamwal, Deep Raj, Surinder Shouri, Puran Thakur, Inder Singh Gandhi, Dilip Thakur, Randhir Sharma, Lokender Kumar and Ranvir Singh.

Leader of Opposition JairamThakur told reporters that  the Rajya Sabha election had made it clear that the Congress government was in a minority and demanded the resignation of CM Sukhu.

A group of six Congress and three independent MLAs, who had spent Tuesday night at a guesthouse at Panchkula in BJP-run Haryana after voting against the Congress candidate, too were back in the House. They were flown back on a helicopter. As these MLAs entered the House, BJP members greeted them by thumping their desks. They also raised the slogan, ''Jai Shri Ram, Ban Gaya Kaam''. On Tuesday, Sukhu had claimed that the MLAs had been “abducted” by the Haryana Police and the CRPF.



Speaker reserves order on Congress petition to disqualify 6 rebel MLAs

Himachal Pradesh Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania on Wednesday reserved his order on a Congress petition seeking disqualification of six party MLAs who cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha election. The six MLAs also face the possibility of disqualification on another count.

Speaking in the assembly, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan Chauhan said a whip was issued to the party MLAs to be present in the House during voting on Wednesday on the budget. But these MLAs defied it by staying away, he added. The minister asked the Speaker to take note of it. The Speaker said the matter is in his knowledge and he will take cognisance of it.

The MLAs had cross-voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan during the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday, leading to the defeat of their party candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi. The Congress has accused the six MLAs of defying the earlier whip on the Rajya Sabha polls.

Senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, who represented the six MLAs before the Speaker on Wednesday, has asserted that a party whip does not apply in the case of Rajya Sabha polls. Jain also argued that the MLAs were only given the notice and the copy of the Congress’ petition while other annexures were not supplied to them. He said according to rules, seven days’ time has to be given to the MLAs for filing the reply. He said there are five or six conditions under the anti-defection law, including seven days’ time for reply, which have to be complied with.

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