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HP rebel MLAs disqualified; breather for Sukhu govt


SHIMLA: The Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu-led

Congress govt

in Himachal Pradesh lived to fight another day, getting its six dissident MLAs


under anti-defection law for cross-voting BJP to victory in Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha poll, and deciding to set up a six-member coordination committee to bridge the divide between govt and party. The committee will include the CM and state Congress chief.
Jolted by the prospect of BJP eroding its hold on one of only three states it governs, Congress’ central leadership declared after the crisis appeared to dissipate that the party was united in HP and the Sukhu govt would last its term.

Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania said disqualification petitions were received by the assembly secretariat against six Congress MLAs for defying the party whip in the election to Himachal’s lone Rajya Sabha seat.
The speaker’s 30-page ruling, among the fastest on disqualification of MLAs, cites various HC and SC orders on invoking the anti-defection law.

Those disqualified are Sudhir Sharma (Dharamshala), Rajinder Rana (Sujanpur), Indradutt Lakhanpal (Barsar), Ravi Thakur (Lahaul-Spiti), Chaitanya Sharma (Gagret) and Devendra Bhutto (Kutlehar).

Capture 4

Congress retains HP majority but remains vulnerable
Congress’s designated troubleshooters in Himachal Pradesh, including former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Karnataka deputy CM D K Shivakumar, on Thursday claimed to have since set its house in order.

Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu

remains CM for now, with a diktat from observers that no MLA or PCC office-bearer shall reveal any “inside information” to the media.
Although Congress still has 34 MLAs after disqualification of six who cross-voted in RS poll, it remains vulnerable with just two legislators in excess of the magic figure of 32.
Disqualifying the MLAs, Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania said, “These members were present in assembly (earlier this week) and marked their attendance. But when cut motions and demands were put to vote, they were not inside the House. They were also absent when finance bill was presented in the House and passed (on Wednesday), proving they had defied the whip and violated anti-defection law.”
The six dissidents, along with three Independents whose support Congress had been counting on for RS poll, cross-voted in favour of BJP’s Harsh Mahajan. The latter won through a draw of lots after he and Congress’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi were tied at 34 votes each. BJP, with 24 MLAs in the 68-strong House, insists vote showed that the Sukhu govt had been reduced to a minority.

rebel MLAs

‘ advocate, Satpal Jain, had sought time to present their case.
The observers announced setting up of a six-member coordination committee which includes Sukhu, his deputy Mukesh Agnihotri and PCC chief Pratibha Singh, whose son and cabinet minister Vikramaditya Singh had resigned Wednesday morning citing “humiliation”, only to withdraw it at the behest of AICC’s Himachal minder Rajeev Shukla and other senior functionaries The high command will pick the other three members of coordination panel, sources said.
Expressing disappointment at losing RS poll despite having 40 MLAs, observer Shivakumar said a party having a majority shouldn’t have ended up in that position because of “some mistakes”. He said CM Sukhu had taken responsibility for loss and Vikramaditya had returned to the fold, signalling end of their rift.
Sukhu iterated that the door was open for the six disqualified MLAs if they wanted to return. “They are our brothers, and their mistakes can be forgiven,” he said. Accusing BJP of “cheap politics”, he said what had happened “isn’t Himachal’s culture”.
PCC chief Pratibha Singh did an about-turn the day after criticising the move to disqualify six MLAs. She said Congress was “united earlier, and is united now”.
Leader of opposition Jai Ram Thakur said the Congress govt had fallen in eyes of people, its workers and MLAs. “Had 15 BJP MLAs not been suspended from the House before Tuesday’s vote on the finance bill and our demand for vote division on the cut motion been accepted, this govt would have collapsed.”

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