A day after Harish Rawat approached it against the Narendra Modi regime's decision to impose President's Rule in Uttarakhand, the Nainital High Court ordered a trust vote on 31 March.
The voting will be supervised by a Registrar General appointed by the court and the result, instead of being made public, will be submitted to the court in a sealed envelope. Interestingly, the nine disqualified rebel Congress MLAs will be allowed to vote as well, only their votes would be kept in a separate envelope.
This means the court will keep the outcome of floor test to itself until it decides on the two appeals challenging the imposition of President's Rule and the Speaker's disqualification of the nine MLAs.
The Congress' in-charge of Uttarakhand Ambika Soni held up the verdict to target the BJP. She said the rebellion by the nine legislators was an internal matter of the party and the BJP should keep out of it. "BJP president Amit Shah has said they want a Congress Mukt Bharat, but they should do it by fighting elections and not by toppling democratically elected governments," she added.
Soni said it was not clear what the court meant by saying the disqualified MLAs would be allowed to vote. "We don't know whether they will vote inside the court or outside of it," she said. "They are no longer MLAs and will need the speaker's consent to enter the chamber of the house. And, if they vote outside, it will be the first of its kind."
The Congress is confident that Harish Rawat will prove his majority in the assembly and continue as the chief minister. They point out that if the votes of the nine disqualified rebels are not counted, then the 70-member House would be left with only 61 members. And the party has the support of 34 of them. "And even if the votes of the rebels are counted, we will still be in a majority," said the party's Uttarakhand chief Kishore Upadhyay.
Pointing out that Rawat had paraded these 34 MLAs before Governor KK Paul Monday, Upadhyay said, "In addition, we expect some BJP MLAs to vote for us."
"If Rawat manages to win the floor test, he is likely to play the victim card and attack the central government for destabilising Congress governments. He will also use this as an election strategy to target the BJP when the state goes to polls. This could, and will, work in his favour," said a senior Congress leader.
The BJP, on its part, has decided to appeal the order, delivered by a single-judge bench, before a division bench of the high court. The hearing is likely to take place on Wednesday.
Edited by Mehraj D Lone
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