Six rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by Speaker; Crisis over assert central Observers

| | Shimla
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Six rebel Congress MLAs disqualified by Speaker; Crisis over assert central Observers

Friday, 01 March 2024 | PNS | Shimla

In a stern message to those who defied the party whip,  Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania on Thursday disqualified six Congress MLAs who had cross-voted in the recent Rajya Sabha polls for the lone seat in the state.

They had also abstained from voting on Budget in the assembly, defying a party whip to vote in favour of the government on the Finance Bill. The ruling Congress had sought their disqualification on this ground.

The disqualified MLAs are Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Devinder Kumar Bhutoo, Ravi Thakur and Chetanya Sharma. Following the disqualification of the rebel legislators, the effective strength of the House has reduced from 68 to 62 while the number of Congress MLAs has shrunk from 40 to 34. This means that Congress remains in a clear majority till bye-elections are held for the six seats which have been declared as vacant by a notification.

It is for the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh that any MLA has been disqualified under the anti-defection law aimed at checking defections.

Announcing the disqualification of the six rebel MLAs at a press conference, the Speaker said they attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law as they defied the whip and ceased to be members of the House with immediate effect. These disqualified MLAs, who had voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha polls were not present in the House during voting on the Budget.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Harshwardhan filed a petition before the Speaker seeking disqualification of these members under the anti-defection law on Tuesday evening for defying the whip that required them to be present in the House and vote for the budget. The Speaker issued show-cause notice to the MLAs and asked them to appear at 1.30 pm on Wednesday for hearing. These MLAs had left for Panchkula after the voting for Rajya Sabha polls on Tuesday and arrived for hearing on Wednesday.

After hearing the arguments of both the parties, the Speaker reserved the judgment on Wednesday and announced it on Thursday.

Senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, who appeared for the rebel Congress MLAs, had argued that these MLAs were only given the show-cause notice and neither the copy of the petition nor the annexure were supplied. He said seven days’ time was mandatory for replying to the notice but no time was given.

Under the anti-defection law, any elected member who gives up the membership of a political party voluntarily or votes or abstains from voting in the House, contrary to any direction issued by his political party, is liable for disqualification.

The Congress party had issued whip to the members to be present in the House during voting on passing of the Budget. These MLAs had signed the attendance register but abstained from the House during voting on the Budget, the Speaker said. These members were issued notices for defying the whip through Whatsapp and e-mail and were asked to appear for hearing.

These MLAs had cross-voted in favour of BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday. Later, they abstained from voting on the Budget in the assembly.

The House passed the Finance Bill by voice vote after Pathania suspended 15 BJP MLAs. The Speaker then adjourned the session.

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.

In his 30-page order, the Speaker mentioned the judgments of the Supreme Court and high courts under the anti-defection law. Narrating the chronology of events, he said the plea of the advocate of the rebel MLAs, Satya Pal Jain, for giving time to reply to the notice was not entertained as “evidence was absolutely clear”.

The Speaker said delivering quick judgment was necessary in such cases to maintain the dignity of democracy and check the “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” phenomenon. The judgment has no link with cross-voting by these MLAs in the Rajya Sabha polls, he added.


Sukhu takes responsibility of Singhvi’s defeat, Himachal crisis over: Cong Central Observer

 

Congress’ central observer DK Shivakumar on Thursday said Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has taken the responsibility of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls and that all differences have been ironed out after speaking to party MLAs individually.

Addressing the media here along with the other party observer, Bhupinder Hooda, Shivakumar said the Congress government would last a full term in Himachal when asked if Sukhu would continue as CM.

When reporters pressed for an answer to the query about Sukhu’s continuation as CM, Hooda said, “Why are you asking a hypothetical question when Sukhu is the CM.” Shivakumar also said that the central observers have spoken to Sukhu, party MLAs and state unit chief Pratibha Singh and all differences have been ironed out. He also said it has been decided to form a coordination committee to sort out all internal matters and that no leader would go to the press.

Public Works Department Minister Vikramaditya Singh, who offered to resign on Wednesday and later said that he would not press for his resignation and will attend the cabinet meeting.

First priority of the Congress is to maintain discipline, they said, adding the government has proved its majority in the House and all the party MLAs and other leaders have resolved to work together.

Earlier, Pratibha Singh, who had been raising the concerns of the Congress leaders, said that disqualification of six MLAs could have been avoided had the grievances of rebel MLAs been redressed. She said it was unfortunate that the Congress lost the Rajya Sabha elections.

The party is strong and differences have been resolved, the Himachal Congress chief said, adding the committee would ensure coordination between the state government and the organization. “The challenge is to win all four seats in Lok Sabha polls for which we have to work hard,” she added.

The Congress government is stable and would continue for five years and the rebel Congress MLAs who contested on Congress ticket and were bought would not be able to face the public, said Sukhu. However, he maintained that “these MLAs are our brothers and mistakes could be forgiven if they wish to come back but we are unable to contact them as their mobile phones are not reachable”.

He accepted that there were shortcomings on his part as well as intelligence and said that he takes responsibility. Referring to rumours regarding his resignation, Sukhu said it was a conspiracy to reduce the number of Congress MLAs during voting on the Budget and that “I had earlier clarified that I have not resigned”.


Congress in Himachal has lost confidence of people, right to stay in power: State BJP chief

 The Congress party has lost the confidence of the people and also the right to stay in power after a stunning defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls in Himachal Pradesh, state BJP chief Rajiv Bindal said on Thursday.

Addressing media persons here, Bindal said that the ruling party with complete majority failing to win the Rajya Sabha elections is unprecedented. How can the people have faith in the government if its own MLAs raise banners of rebellion, he asked. The Congress government in the state has lost the moral right to stay in power, he said.

The style of functioning of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu was “disgusting” and the losses suffered by the state are unprecedented, Bindal said, and added that it was for the first time that the people are disillusioned in a short period of 14 months. He said the Congress came to power by giving false guarantees but lost its sheen and the living of people has become “miserable”. The cross-voting in the Rajya Sabha polls was only a reflection of the anger of the people, he added.

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