Congress led by Harish Rawat has won the floor test in Uttarakhand. 33 legislators voted in favour (including PDF) while 28 against the vote of confidence ordered by Supreme Court and held under its supervision. The disqualification of 9 Congress rebel MLAs which was upheld by the Supreme Court helped Rawat to sail through. The original floor test which was slated to happen on Mar. 28 as per Governor instructions could not take place as BJP imposed President’s Rule just a day before on Mar. 27. Floor tests ordered by courts on various dates subsequently were also overturned by higher courts and finally test was conducted after 1.5 months of delay under the same circumstances with 9 rebel MLAs not allowed to vote.
The Supreme Court announced the result today which was sealed in an envelope. Attorney General has informed Court that Center will revoke President’s Rule, notification to follow.
Picture Courtesy: www.ndtv.com
This is a big setback for the BJP as it shows that it tried to capture power in the state through back door and fanning rebellion in Congress. At a time when there is an attempt to form a mega anti BJP alliance to take on the party in 2019 LS polls, this incident could tilt even the neutral parties (TRS, AIADMK, BJD etc.) towards this mega block fearing similar BJP aggression and attempt in their backyard. This could be seen as an attempt to disturb the federal structure of our country. BJP needs the support of regional parties in Rajya Sabha for the passage of crucial bills and this does not augur well for Modi Sarkar. BSP siding with Congress in this vote is sign of things to come.
Here again two of Modi’s most trusted lieutenants – Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley – erred big time and are responsible for this loss of face for the party. Shah felt based on success in Arunachal, that imposition of President’s Rule will give some time for BJP to elicit support from BSP, UKD and independents and then they can install a govt. headed by rebels. However, all calculations were based on rebel MLAs escaping the disqualification (like in Arunachal) which didn’t happen. The legal brain of BJP – Jaitley, made internally a big case of how Rawat govt. fell on the day of passage of state budget. He also wrote a big blog on Facebook which few people would have understood and even the courts didn’t buy this agreement.
Why was President’s Rule Imposed?
1. Official Position
BJP claimed that Appropriation Bill (a money bill) was not passed in the House on 18th of March implying Rawat govt. didn’t enjoy majority support. Additionally CM was engaged in horse trading (as shown in sting video) leading to a complete breakdown of constitutional machinery in the state.
2. Real Reason / Political Games
Factionalism was brewing in Uttarakhand Congress for some time. BJP saw an opportunity to dislodge another Congress govt. after having tasted blood in Arunachal. The stumbling block in the entire story was the Governor (appointed during UPA regime). He didn’t openly side with BJP as allegedly seen in Arunachal case and instead gave Rawat 28th Mar. deadline to prove majority. Before the floor test, Speaker disqualified the 9 rebel Congress MLAs effectively reducing House strength to 61 and meaning Rawat enjoyed majority in a depleted strength assembly. Seeing their plans fail, BJP imposed President’s Rule on 27th Mar. 2016.
Lessons for Judiciary
There are many lessons for the judiciary as well to reflect upon. The matter was heard in top 3 courts for close to 1.5 months. The top courts of the country overturned the respective lower court orders but in the end issued very similar judgments as evident from below table.
The underlying theme in all these orders was whether a government enjoys majority or not can be decided only on the floor of the house as prescribed in S.R. Bomaiyya case and Sarkaria Commission recommendations.
The 1.5 month long delay encouraged horse trading with allegations and counter allegations from both sides. The Supreme Court in this matter has behaved like the difficult boss who dislikes / doesn’t trust his juniors and publicly criticizes their work but in the end uses the same work done by them in his presentations to senior management.
The episode has many learnings for the BJP if it wishes to, first and foremost clip the wings of Shah and Jaitley. Judiciary also needs to look within and see what their shortcomings in such type of cases are. In the end it is a victory of democracy.
Am in no way ignoring the horse trading allegations against Harish Rawat. But that is for CBI to investigate and these two separate issues should not be mixed up. Lessons for Congress as well. Yuvraj can’t remain aloof to dissidence in party. Should mix up more with legislators and party workers.