Uttarakhand Governor Krishna Kant Paul on Saturday asked Chief Minister Harish Rawat to prove his majority on the floor of the state assembly by March 28 as the political crisis escalated with the Bharatiya Janata Party, claiming the support of rebel Congress MLAs, stepped up efforts to form its government.
On his part, Rawat asserted that he was ready to prove his majority in the assembly.
In a letter to the chief minister, the governor has asked him to prove his majority in the state assembly by March 28, a top Raj Bhavan official said. It was dispatched to the CM shortly before his appointment with the governor this evening.
The governor's directive is being seen as a breather to Rawat with as many as nine party MLAs raising a banner of revolt against his government and the BJP claiming that his government had been reduced to a minority in the state assembly.
While the BJP claims the support of 35 MLAs including nine rebel Congress legislators, Rawat says he still enjoys a majority in the 70-member House as none of the so-called rebel MLAs has quit the party or the CLP. He also said that five of the rebels were in touch with him.
On a day of claims and counter-claims by the BJP and the Congress, assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal said that the "anti-defection law is in place and whoever is found guilty of violating it will have to be acted against".
"All Congress MLAs voted with the government when the previous bill was passed in the Assembly and nobody had challenged the bill. Even the BJP accepts the voice vote," he said.
Asked about BJP's no-confidence notice against him, Kunjwal said,"We will see when it comes in the assembly. Members of the legislative assembly will discuss and decide if the no-confidence notice is valid or not".
Hitting back at the BJP, the Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of seeking to destabilise non-BJP governments through lure of money and political power.
"The duo of Modi and Shah are infamous for forcible eviction of elected governments in this country. Elected government are being destabilised by a sinister conspiracy. After Arunachal Pradesh, it is Uttarakhand," Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala told reporters in New Delhi.
In Dehradun, the BJP intensified efforts to dislodge the Rawat government, claiming it has majority in the Uttarakhand assembly and should be invited to form the government as the incumbent Congress dispensation has been reduced to a minority.
"The Harish Rawat government has lost majority. Today, the BJP has the numbers with the support of rebel Congress MLAs to form a new government in Uttarakhand," Shyam Jaju, the state in-charge of BJP, told PTI.
Jaju said the party is willing to present the MLAs whose support it enjoys before President Pranab Mukherjee and insisted that Rawat should immediately resign given the loss of majority.
Nine rebel Congress MLAs have reached Delhi and are in touch with BJP leaders, he said.
Accusing the BJP of distorting facts, Rawat said, "Those who are saying they have support of 35 MLAs are misrepresenting facts. I am confident that I still have a majority in the assembly and can prove it on the floor of the House," he told reporters after emerging from a meeting with the assembly speaker.
The rebel MLAs included, the Congress has a strength of 36 MLAs in the 70-member assembly. The ruling party also has the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front. The BJP has 28 MLAs.
A three-member BJP delegation of former chief minister and MP Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, Jaju and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya met the Governor last night after the simmering discontent within a section of Congress legislature came to the fore.
Amidst chaos in the assembly, nine Congress rebels had joined the BJP in demanding a division of votes on the state's annual budget, which could have led to the government's fall.
Rebel Congress MLAs seen raising anti-government slogans along with BJP were mostly those owing allegiance to former chief minister and MLA Vijay Bahuguna. The other eight were Harak Singh Rawat, Amrita Rawat, Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion, Shaila Rani Rawat, Pradip Batra, Subodh Uniyal, a confirmed Bahuguna loyalist, Shailendra Mohan Singhal and Umesh Sharma.
Surjewala said that the BJP was resorting to such actions in the backdrop of poll debacle in Delhi followed by in Bihar which has "convinced" the ruling party at the Centre that it would not come to power in any state through popular vote.
"Is this the Modi culture of politics of transparency and accountability to lure away legislators...bypassing all constitutional norms?" he said.
Admitting that Congress MLAs had flouted the party whip by sitting on a dharna along with opposition members, Rawat said that they were liable to be acted against in accordance with the Constitutional provisions.
The chief minister said that he was hurt by the behaviour of rebel party MLAs including Harak Singh Rawat and Vijay Bahuguna.
"As fas as Harak Singh is concerned, the less said the better. He is such a star of Uttarakhand's political firmament. If one or two more such wrestlers are born in the state, Uttarakhand of our dreams will never become a reality," he said.
Rawat said he was shocked by Bahuguna's conduct in the House yesterday as he came from a family which always fought against communal forces.
"Coming as it did from the son of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna who always fought for secular values and stood against communal forces, Bahugunaji's behaviour was no less shocking," the chief minister said.