Sukhu survives crisis, Congress rushes observers to Shimla

Sukhu survives crisis, Congress rushes observers to Shimla

The political crisis triggered by Tuesday’s cross-voting for lone Rajya Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh seems to have deepened following Congress’ decision to initiate proceedings for disqualification of six MLAs involved in the cross-voting even as Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has temporarily survived opposition BJP bid to oust him.

Meanwhile, PWD minister Vikramaditya Singh, who had announced his resignation Wednesday morning, has reportedly changed his decision in ‘larger interest’ of the party.

The House, which is currently in session, passed the state’s Budget for the year 2024-25 –a day before the schedule after Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania suspended 15 BJP MLAs including Leader of Opposition Jairam Thakur and former Speaker Vipin Singh Parmar.

After announcing his decision on suspension on the basis of a motion tabled by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Harshvardhan Singh Chauhan, the Speaker ordered the ‘marshals’ to physically remove all the MLAs whose names he read out for their suspension.

The Leader of Opposition along with BJP MLAs lodged massive protests and even entered the well of the House raising slogans, created a ruckus and threw away papers from the Speaker’s dias and reporters’ table but eventually had no option but to leave the House.

Later, the Speaker convened the House and got the Budget passed in the absence of the Opposition. Six Congress MLAs, who briefed, showed –up in the Assembly amidst cheers of “Jai Shri Ram” from the BJP members obtained from the proceedings when the Budget was passed.

This led the minister for parliamentary affairs to move a resolution against them asking for disqualification under the anti-defection law, a petition for which he said, had already been under his (Speaker’s) consideration. He alleged that MLAs have wilfully defied the party whip and thus will get unseated.

Later in the evening the Speaker, who heard the plea and also pleading of senior advocate Satya Pal Jain reserved his order on disqualification of the rebel Congress MLAs.

Outside the Assembly, the day was marked by protests by the BJP MLAs against their suspension even as Jairam Thakur alleged that the Congress used the office of the Speaker for suspension of 15 MLAs, not to pass the Budget but to save the government which had been reduced to a minority.

He rejected the charge that the BJP was trying to topple the government, asserting that there is growing discontentment and dissatisfaction against the Chief Minister, who has failed to take the MLAs along. Only six may have voted for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, but there are several who were not completely happy with the government.

“ This government is going to fall soon, if not today” he asserted.

In an equally significant development PWD minister Vikramaditya Singh, who is also son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh announced his resignation from the government as he accused the Chief Minister of trying to ignore him, interfere with his work and even undermining the legacy of his father. He termed happenings in the party unfortunate but attributed its reasons to the Chief Minister’s style of governance and non-fulfilment of the promises made with the people, the youths.

However, hours later, he withdrew his resignation after a meeting with CM Sukhu and the party’s central leaders team.

Singh turned emotional remembering his father, who he said was six times Chief Minister and his name was used in the 2022 Assembly polls to win the elections. But when it came to the issue of installing his statue at the Ridge Maidan, the government tried to ignore it.

“I have repeatedly raised the issue of how he was treated in the government with party high command including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and now the ball is in their court to make corrections” he said as two other congress MLAs—Mohan Lal Brakta and Nand Lal also joined him in his press conference.

To do fire-fighting, the party high command sent a team of three leaders— Bhupesh Baghel, Bhupinder Singh Hooda and D K Shivakumar— to Shimla to hold talks with Congress MLAs including rebels to resolve the crisis. The leaders have decided to meet every MLA one by one and listen to their grievances.

However, the six MLAs who did cross-voting were flown back in a helicopter from Panchkula in Haryana, where they were lodged, to Shimla this morning under tight security. They reportedly declined to meet the high command team and were escorted out of Shimla by the BJP leaders. They have been asking for change of leadership if the Congress government has to survive.

The Congress which has 40 MLAs in the 68-member House, lost the Rajya Sabha seat to BJP’s Harsh Mahajan, a former Congress minister who had joined the party in 2022. The BJP has only 25 MLAs, yet the party secured an impossible victory over congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi who otherwise could have polled 34 votes including three Independents. The Independents have also switched sides to the BJP.

Sukhu later in the day refuted reports on his resignation even as he continued to face pressures from the MLAs and opposition BJP.

Neither has anyone asked for my resignation nor have I given my resignation to anyone. We will prove the majority. We will win, the people of Himachal will win”, Sukhu told media persons.

“There are reports in some media houses that the CM has resigned. I want to clarify that I haven’t resigned. I am a warrior. I also want to make it clear that the Congress government will complete its full 5-year term”, he added.

On resignation by Vikramaditya Singh, the Chief Minister said that he has spoken to Vikramaditya Singh and he is like his younger brother. He said that when someone gets angry or agitated, then he takes such a step and he will speak to him on this. He said that there was no question of accepting the resignation of Vikaramaditya Singh. He said that Vikaramaditya Singh has some issues that would be resolved.

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