Understanding the Uttarakhand crisis

The crisis, which has been running for more than 10 days, has raised concerns of horse-trading and constitutional propriety.

Updated - November 17, 2021 05:12 am IST

Published - March 28, 2016 08:59 pm IST

The political crisis in Uttarakhand started on March 18 when nine Congress MLAs, along with 27 BJP legislators, met Governor K. K. Paul at the Raj Bhavan in Dehradun, and > sought the dismissal of the Congress government led by Chief Minister Harish Rawat. Mr. Rawat met the Governor on March 19 and maintained that he enjoyed a majority in the 71-seat Uttarakhand Assembly (with one nominated member).

Before the crisis unfolded, the Congress had 36 MLAs in the Assembly. The party also had the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while Opposition BJP had 28 MLAs.

Here's how the crisis unfolded:

March 20:Rawat gets 9 days to prove majority

Governor K.K. Paul > gave Mr. Rawat a deadline of March 28 to prove his majority in Assembly. Congress leaders cried foul over what they termed a systematic attempt by the BJP to topple governments headed by the Congress in various States.

“The duo of Modi and Shah is infamous for forcible eviction of elected governments. Elected governments are being destabilised by a sinister conspiracy. After Arunachal Pradesh, it is Uttarakhand,” All India Congress Committee general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewalahad had said.

The BJP dismissed the allegations. Minister for Telecommunications Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “If the Congress cannot keep its flock together, it is not the fault of the BJP.”

March 21:Congress expels former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s son

The Congress > expelled Saket Bahuguna for six years for “anti-party” activities. Mr. Saket Bahuguna was among the nine rebel MLAs.

Saket Bahuguna. (PTI)

The Congress accused him of “masterminding” the rebellion.

March 22:BJP, Congress urge Pranab to intervene

The BJP and the Congress > separately met President Pranab Mukherjee , seeking his intervention to resolve the political crisis. A delegation led by Kailash Vijayvargiya, a prominent BJP leader in Uttarakhand, requested the President to advance the floor test from March 28 to March 22 and said this would determine whether the government had a majority or not. He also asked the President to direct the Governor to dismiss the government immediately.

The Congress delegation, led by Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, met the President with counterclaims.

“We told him [the President] that last Saturday, they [BJP leaders] took a bunch of Congress MLAs, against their will, to the Governor’s house to claim a majority in the Assembly,” Mr. Azad had said.

March 23: Here's how our >Editorial summed up the crisis:

"Uttarakhand unfortunately faces a new phase of political uncertainty. It was created out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 after a long grass-roots level struggle for statehood to meet the unique administrative needs of the Himalayan region. The State’s composite character demands genuine, responsive politics to bind the 13 districts into an organic whole. Indeed, party politics, as contrasted with the social coalition that won the statehood, is still a work in progress in crafting the balance and depth to keep the different regions and constituencies on board. Both the BJP and the Congress, during their respective stints in power, have struggled to paper over intra-party rivalries."

March 26:Harak Singh, one of the rebel MLAs, presents a 'sting video'

Mr. Harak Singh presented to the press > a video of a sting that apparently showed Mr. Rawat discussing some figures with an individual, identified as a journalist associated with a Hindi news channel, in an alleged effort to win back rebel MLAs to prove his majority in the Assembly on March 28. The press conference was co-hosted by Saket Bahuguna.

Mr. Rawat called the video “false and absolutely fake”. The Congress’s Central leadership came out in support of the Chief Minister.

Mr. Surjewala, said: “After unsuccessfully deploying money power and having faced disappointment from the High Court yesterday [Friday], the BJP has come out with this so-called sting operation. It doesn’t matter; the truth will still win.”

March 27: > Rebel MLAs disqualifiedunder anti-defection law

The rebel MLAs — Vijay Bahuguna, Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion, Harak Singh Rawat, Shaela Rani Rawat, Pradip Batra, Shailendra Mohan Singhal, Amrita Rawat, Subodh Uniyal and Umesh Sharma — had requested the Speaker for more time to present their side. With the disqualification, the 70-member Uttarakhand Assembly had 61 members, of whom only 27 represented the Congress.

A day before confidence vote, President’s Rule imposed in Uttarakhand

President’s Rule > was imposed in Uttarakhand , a day before the Rawat government was to face a test of strength in the Assembly, which had been placed under suspended animation. Soon after, Mr. Rawat said he believed that an alliance between two Ministers — Harak Singh Rawat and former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna — caused the downfall of his government.

In a revelation of sorts, Mr. Rawat said that he had had to “compromise at many levels” in order to maintain political stability in the State. Putting the major blame for the rift in the Congress on Mr. Harak Singh, he regretted that he could not muster the courage to sack him. “I tried to control him on many occasions and that’s why he became rebellious.”

Take a look at an > interactive timeline of other instances when President's Rule was imposed since 1951 .

March 28:'Rawat indulged in horse-trading'

To further complicate the crisis, senior BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in a Facebook post titled, “A State Without a Budget’, said the Congress government in the State was reduced to minority on March 18 when 35 MLAs in the Assembly voted against the Appropriation Bill and 32 in favour.

“The Chief Minister started allurement, horse-trading and disqualification with a view to altering the composition of the House.” > Continue reading...

Rawat moves HC against imposition of President’s Rule

The dislodged Chief Minister > moved the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital, questioning the Centre’s decision of bringing the State under President’s rule.

Harish Rawat, along with Congress leaders and MLAs, is seen after a meeting with Uttarakhand Governor K.K. Paul at Raj Bhavan in Dehradun. (PTI)

Mr. Rawat’s petition came up before the single bench of Justice U.C. Dhyani, who after hearing both sides, said the matter would be taken up on March 29.

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