Himachal Pradesh crisis: Assembly clears budget in absence of BJP MLAs | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Himachal Pradesh crisis: Assembly clears budget in absence of BJP MLAs

Feb 29, 2024 04:30 AM IST

Himachal Pradesh assembly adjourned sine die after budget passage in absence of BJP members, suspended for unruly behavior.

The Himachal Pradesh assembly was on Wednesday adjourned sine die after the passage of the budget for 2024-25 in the absence of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members, as 15 of them, including former chief minister Jairam Thakur, were suspended for alleged unruly behaviour and the remaining 10 walked out in protest against the action.

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu speaks to the media in Shimla on Wednesday. (ANI)
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu speaks to the media in Shimla on Wednesday. (ANI)

Six Congress MLAs and three independents, who cross-voted for the BJP in the Rajya polls on Tuesday and subsequently pushed Congress government into a political crisis, were also not present in the House when the budget was passed.

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The BJP, which claims that the Rajya Sabha election made it clear that the state government was in the minority, alleged the suspensions were a ploy to pass the budget in the House. The Congress dismissed the allegation. Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania, meanwhile, reserved his order on a Congress petition seeking disqualification of the six party rebels.

Also Read | Himachal Pradesh crisis: Former minister, ex-chairman of ST panel among rebels

Earlier in the day, the state assembly plunged into chaos after BJP legislators demanded division of votes on a fresh cut motion during the budget session. On Tuesday, the speaker had rejected the opposition’s cut motion that allows members of the House to oppose any provision in a Finance Bill or allocation of ministry-wise Demand for Grants in the budget.

Amid continuous protests by BJP legislators, parliamentary affairs minister Harshwardhan Chauhan moved a motion, seeking the suspension of 15 members for allegedly disrespecting the speaker and misbehaving with him.

“To ensure smooth running of the House, the protesting BJP MLAs should be suspended for the remainder of the session,” Chauhan said, as the resolution was passed by a voice vote.

Also Read | Himachal crisis: Sukhvinder Singh Sukhua claims Congress govt is 'safe'

As the BJP members refused to leave, the speaker adjourned the House till 12pm amid uproarious scenes. The House, however, failed to reassemble at noon as some of the suspended legislators refused to leave the premises, prompting the speaker to direct the marshals to evict them.

“The Rajya Sabha poll has made it clear that the Sukhu government is in minority and speaker Pathania is trying to save him,” Thakur told reporters outside.

“The BJP had 25 MLAs in the House before some of the Congress MLAs cross-voted during polling for the Rajya Sabha seat. Our strength rose to 34 after the Rajya Sabha vote, which set off alarm bells in the government. They had to pass the budget by any means necessary or else this government would fall. They knew they had to devise a ploy to reduce our strength in the House and hence, got some of our members, including myself, suspended in a desperate bid to save the government,” he added.

The Congress has 40 MLAs while the BJP has 25 in the assembly. The remaining three seats are held by independents.

“In one family, there could be differences but the issues will be resolved amicably,” education minister Rohit Thakur said later.

The session eventually resumed at 2pm and the budget for 2024-25 and related Appropriation Bill authorising the government to spend 6,24,21.73 crore from the consolidated fund was passed by a voice vote.

“We have the requisite numbers to get the budget passed,” Chauhan said.

The six Congress MLAs – Sudhir Sharma, Chaitanya Sharma, Devender Bhutto, Rajender Rana, Inderdutt Lakhanpal, and Ravi Thakur – and three independent legislators – Hishiyar Singh, Ashish Sharma, and KL Thakur – also arrived in the House chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and raising slogans in favour of the protesting BJP legislators. They left the House after the suspended BJP members were removed.

Meanwhile, Pathania reserved his order on a Congress petition seeking disqualification of the six party legislators. Chauhan said a whip was issued to the party MLAs to be present in the House during voting Wednesday on the budget. But these MLAs defied it by staying away, he added.

Chauhan asked the speaker to take note of it. Pathania said the matter is in his knowledge and he will take cognisance of it, even as senior advocate Satya Pal Jain, who represented the six MLAs before the speaker, asserted that a party whip does not apply in the case of Rajya Sabha polls.

Apart from Thakur, the suspended MLAs are Vipin Parmar, Vinod Kumar, Hans Raj, Janak Raj, Balbir Verma, Trilok Jamwal, Deep Raj, Surinder Shouri, Puran Thakur, Inder Singh Gandhi, Dilip Thakur, Randhir Sharma, Lokender Kumar, and Ranvir Singh.

“Democracy is being strangled and every effort is being made to save the government which is in the minority. The speaker should have allowed voting instead of suspending the MLAs,” Randhir Sharma said.

In the Rajya Sabha election on Tuesday, Congress candidate Abhishek Singhvi received 34 votes after the six Congress lawmakers and three independents previously backing the government supported BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan, who also received 34 votes. The tie was then resolved by a draw-of-lots, which favoured Mahajan.

But the embarrassing loss also meant that the Congress was unable to cross the simple majority mark of 35 in the 68-member House, fuelling speculation that the Sukhvinder Sukhu government had been reduced to a minority, and sparking calls for the chief minister’s resignation.

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    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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