Himachal CM May Consider Taking Back 6 Rebel Congress MLAs; No Bigger Joke, Says BJP

Shimla: Amid talks that six rebel Congress MLAs might seek legal recourse and approach the High Court to challenge their disqualification, Himachal Pradesh’s minister Vikramaditya Singh met them at a hotel in Shimla on Friday.

Singh, who is the son of Himachal Congress president Pratibha Singh, has reportedly advised Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu to reconsider his decision and reinstate the legislators. “The rebel MLAs have accepted their mistake. We must reconsider as anything is possible in politics,” top sources in the Congress quoted Singh as telling Sukhu.

Vikramaditya Singh has also decided not to press his resignation from the cabinet until the final outcome of the ongoing efforts by central observers to placate dissident leaders.

When asked if they would meet the six disqualified Congress MLAs, Himachal Pradesh Congress chief, however, said, “Right now they are under tight security. So, meeting them is not easy…I cannot get in touch with them because their phones are switched off. The entire area is cordoned. You cannot talk to them, you cannot meet them. It is not easy. Let’s see what situation occurs.”

Himachal Pradesh LoP Jairam Thakur, on the other hand, termed the exercise as a joke. “After their disqualification, it is being said that they are welcome if they want to come back. There can be no bigger joke than this…things have not settled yet and there is no possibility of that happening…,” he told the media.

On Thursday, Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania disqualified the six MLAs for allegedly defying a party whip on voting for the state Budget in the assembly. Pathania addressing a press conference, said the MLAs had breached the anti-defection law and had disobeyed the party whip, leading to their immediate cessation as members of the House.

In a 30-page ruling, Pathania emphasised the importance of prompt judgments in such instances to uphold the integrity of democracy and address the “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram” phenomenon, referring to historical occurrences of legislators switching parties.

The upheaval in Himachal Pradesh politics began with cross-voting by six Congress MLAs during Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha election for the single seat from the state. It came as a significant blow for ruling Congress in the state, as the BJP secured the seat despite having a numerical disadvantage.

The six dissenting Congress MLAs – Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Rajinder Rana, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chetanya Sharma, and Devinder Kumar Bhutto – also abstained from voting on the finance bill, thereby defying the party’s whip. The ruling Congress party pursued their disqualification for breaching the party’s directive.

As a consequence of the disqualification action, vacancies have emerged in the assembly constituencies of Dharamshala, Lahaul and Spiti, Sujanpur, Barsar, Gagret, and Kutlehar. This unprecedented move has reduced the effective strength of the House from 68 to 62, resulting in a decrease in Congress MLAs from 40 to 34. The BJP has 25 MLAs in the assembly.

D K Shivakumar, the Congress’ central observer, had earlier said that CM Sukhu had accepted responsibility for the defeat of party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi in the Rajya Sabha polls. He asserted that all disagreements had been resolved after personally discussing matters with each party MLA.

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