Ecostani | Why the Congress may not go for the kill in Haryana - Hindustan Times
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Ecostani | Why the Congress may not go for the kill in Haryana

May 10, 2024 12:30 AM IST

The Congress not having a clear majority may be a reason why the party is not staking claim to form the government.

The Congress and the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) on Thursday asked Haryana governor Bandaru Dattatreya for a floor test in the state assembly after three independent MLAs withdrew support to the Nayab Singh Saini-led Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) government.

Congress candidate Deepender Singh Hooda was accompanied by his wife Hemsweta, his father, Haryana Congress chief Udai Bhan and Rohtak MLA BB Batra while filing the nomination papers in Haryana on Saturday. (Manoj Dhaka/HT)(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Congress candidate Deepender Singh Hooda was accompanied by his wife Hemsweta, his father, Haryana Congress chief Udai Bhan and Rohtak MLA BB Batra while filing the nomination papers in Haryana on Saturday. (Manoj Dhaka/HT)(HT_PRINT)

The JJP, which has 10 MLAs in the 90 member-Haryana assembly, has also announced support to the Congress, if it stakes claim to form the government. So far, the Congress, which has 30 MLAs, has not staked claim to form the government even though on paper it has the support of at least 43 MLAs including from the JJP.

The strength of the Haryana assembly was reduced to 88 when former chief minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, and Rania MLA Ranjit Chautala resigned to contest the Lok Sabha polls. Hence, the majority mark is 45 and both the BJP and Congress have the support of 43 MLAs. Two independent MLAs have so far been equidistance from both the BJP and the Congress.

Voting for two assembly by-polls along with that of Lok Sabha constituencies will take place on May 25 in the state.

The Congress not having a clear majority may be a reason why the party is not staking claim to form the government. A senior Congress leader said they were also apprehensive about whether all 10 JJP MLAs would support the Congress or not. The fear is that if the floor test is carried out, some JJP MLAs may support the BJP against the party whip. Moreover, the Congress is apprehensive that some of its MLAs may also switch sides and join the BJP.

The Congress is also not in a position to move a no-confidence motion as Haryana assembly rules do not allow two trust motions within six months.

On March 13, Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda had moved a no-confidence motion against Saini, who had the support of 48 MLAs. At the time, the BJP had 41 MLAs, and received support from six independent MLAs and one from the Haryana Lokhit Party (HLP), to register 47 votes. The 10 JJP MLAs had abstained from the voting, helping the BJP to win the trust vote easily.

In the present situation, the BJP has claimed that apart from 43, it has the support of three JJP MLAs whose names it did not disclose. The JJP had issued notices to three MLAs for “anti-party” activities when they spoke against party leader and former deputy chief minister, Dushyant Chautala. These three MLAs have so far not revealed their stand. Khattar, in fact, told reporters on Tuesday that they were confident of proving the majority if the governor asked them to do so as they have the support of MLAs from other parties.

Hooda admitted to reporters on Wednesday that it cannot bring a trust vote against Saini because of the rules and asked Saini to prove his majority on the floor of the house on “moral” grounds. On Thursday, the party wrote to the governor asking for an appointment to discuss the prevailing “political crisis” in the state. The JJP also asked the governor to call a state assembly session to conduct the trust vote saying that Saini has lost the majority.

Unlike any previous instance of the opposition moving in fast gear to topple the incumbent government, the Congress and the JJP have been slow, possibly because the two parties are wary of each other.

On Tuesday evening, three independent MLAs also extended support to the Congress. The Congress, however, did not write to the governor seeking a trust vote immediately.

The Congress and the JJP seem to be waiting for the other to take the initiative and are not willing to break the status quo unilaterally by going to the governor.

On Wednesday, for example, Hooda asked Chautala to take the initiative to parade his 10 MLAs before the governor and seek a trust vote. “After he takes his MLAs to the governor's house, I will send ours to Raj Bhawan led by MLA Bharat Bhushan Batra,” Hooda said. And, on Thursday, Chautala asked Hooda to join him in parading the MLAs before the governor. Hooda did not respond.

In the absence of either party ready to make a show of strength, the governor may not be inclined to call the chief minister to prove his majority.

Even if the Congress and JJP MLAs are paraded before the governor, there is no surety over Dattatreya asking Saini to prove his majority within a certain timeframe. The Governor, who is the ceremonial head of the legislative, is not bound by rules to decide within a certain timeframe on the claims of the ruling party having lost its majority.

The Supreme Court in separate rulings has said that the governor can take “reasonable” time to decide on such issues without defining the reasonable time.

From the sequence of events since Tuesday, it appears that Congress may not be much interested in the Saini government falling before the Lok Sabha polls on May 25. The BJP holds all 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana and the Congress is aiming to wrest at least half of these seats from the ruling party. Congress leaders aware of the development said that the party does not want to get involved in government formation during the Lok Sabha campaign period but wants to extract as much political mileage as possible from the current uncertainty.

So far, Hooda has demanded President’s Rule in the state but refrained from staking claim to form the government.

“We know forming a government with 30 MLAs for less than six months would be a risky affair. We cannot trust the JJP which was part of the BJP government for four-and-half years,” said a senior Congress leader who asked not to be named.

The state assembly elections in Haryana are slated for December 2024. The Congress believes that the MLAs leaving the BJP camp would help the party in the assembly polls. And, for that to happen, the party is willing to wait.

Chetan Chauhan, national affairs editor, analyses the most important environment and political story in the country this week

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