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Uttarakhand: Overjoyed Congress & Harish Rawat mull early elections

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

The tactics

  • Congress is on a high, having won the trust vote in Uttarakhand
  • It might try for early polls as it feels there is a positive mood for it in the state
  • Elections are due early next year

More in the story

  • Why the Congress fears another crisis
  • What will BJP do?

Overjoyed by the result of the Supreme Court monitored trust vote, the Congress party is mulling over the possibility of pushing for an early poll in Uttarakhand. The Congress leadership believes that the party could capitalise on the current political situation in the state which seems to be favouring Rawat. The party is convinced that the people of the state are upset with BJP's dirty tricks which could further be exploited by Rawat in case of early polls.

The assembly elections in Uttarakhand are slated to be held early next year.

Another reason for Congress' desperation could be that the matter of 9 disqualified MLAs will be taken up by the Supreme Court on 12 July. If the court revokes their disqualification, the composition of the house is bound to change forcing yet another floor test that could go against the Congress government. In such a scenario, early elections seem to be the only way out.

Wary of BJP's attempts to poach its legislators, the party wants to bring an end to the period of uncertainty by dissolving the assembly at an earlier date. "Some of our legislators are close to rebels and BJP leaders, especially Satpal Maharaj, and they would leave no stone unturned to cause more defections. We are confident of winning the assembly polls, but have to be extra cautious of the BJP. Early polls are the only way out, but its legality also has to be looked at " said a senior Congress leader.

What will BJP do?

However, Congress' game plan would not go as planned if the central government and Election Commission oppose such a move. BJP is certain to block such a proposition as the Election Commission had earlier barred the then chief minister Narendra Modi to hold early election in 2002 in Gujarat.

Back then, Election Commission had opposed the advancement of the election and in its 40 page decision said that "the communal divide following the riots have not yet healed". It further noted that the EC was not in the position to hold elections before 3 October 2002. It was widely believed that the intent for pushing the state for an early polls was to capitalise on the communal tension prevailing in the aftermath of the anti-Muslim riots in the state.

Even Congress leaders have not ruled out such a possibility and said more discussions are needed before they make a final decision. "Rawat was asked this question by a journalist and he said that we will do whatever is in favour of the state. However, we are aware of such a possibility and the senior leadership will discuss the matter at length. Right now, we are preparing for the swearing in ceremony of the chief minister and these matters can wait," said a Congress leader based in Dehradun.

Congress is presenting the Uttarakhand trust vote as a victory of democracy

Meanwhile, soon after the Supreme Court announced the outcome the results of the trust vote, celebrations broke out at Rawat's residence. "Rawat gets 33 votes out of 61 in the floor test. No irregularities were found in the voting. 9 MLAs could not vote due to their disqualification," the division bench of the Supreme Court said which further requested the central government to revoke President's Rule so that Rawat can once again take charge of the state.

The Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the division bench about the Centre's instructions of revoking President's Rule and that there was no doubt that Rawat had proved his majority on the floor of the house.

An ecstatic Rawat thanked the Supreme Court and said that this was the victory of the people. He even thanked Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for their support and said that he would meet them soon. Meanwhile, responding to the court's announcement, Rahul Gandhi said that democracy has won and hoped that the Prime Minister will "learn a lesson". "They (BJP) did their worst. We did our best. Democracy won in Uttarakhand. "Hope the PM learns the lesson that people of India and institutions built by our founding fathers will not tolerate murder of democracy," Rahul said on Twitter.

Comparing the Uttarakhand political crisis to the Kedarnath tragedy, ousted Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat urged the BJP to forget about what happened and join hands with Congress for the development of the state. Rawat even said that he will try and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and request them to extend support to his government.

First published: 11 May 2016, 10:39 IST