Himachal Chief Minister Dismisses Rumours Amid Congress Crisis

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Himachal Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu (File).

New Delhi:
The Congress faces a crisis in Himachal Pradesh after yesterday’s shock Rajya Sabha election loss. Six MLAs cross-voted, and three independents who offered their support, sided with the BJP, leaving doubts over the majority status of its government.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. On Wednesday afternoon, under-fire Chief Minister Sukhvinder Sukhu rubbished talk of his resignation. “Neither (has) anyone asked for my resignation nor have I presented my resignation to anyone. We will prove our majority. We will win…” he said, accusing the BJP of “spreading rumours” to break the party before the budget is tabled.

  2. “They want to create a break in the party. They want Congress MLAs to leave and join them. But Congress is united…” he declared, claiming also that some of his lawmakers who had cross-voted had already reached out, and were trying to return to the fold.

  3. The defiant note comes amid buzz the BJP will force the Congress into a floor test to prove its majority in the 68-member House, in which the majority mark is set at 35.

  4. The Congress had 40 MLAs before the cross-voting. However, if it has lost the six cross-voters, its count slips to 34 – one seat below majority. The BJP had 25 but could now have as many as 34 too, including the independents, making for a dramatic hung House.

  5. Alarmed at the potential loss of another state government, the Congress has rushed three ‘observers’ – Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, ex-Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and state-in-charge Rajeev Shukla – to defuse the situation.

  6. Senior leader Jairam Ramesh called the cross-voting “unfortunate”; the six who did so have been served disqualification notices. The priority, though, is to “save the Congress government”, he said, claiming another chapter in ‘Operation Lotus’ – the term used by the opposition when accusing the BJP of conspiring to oust elected governments.

  7. However, there seemed to be subtext in Mr Ramesh’s message to the media that suggested Chief Minister Sukhu might be removed if he doesn’t quit. “We will have to take some difficult decisions and we will not stop short of that,” Jairam Ramesh said.

  8. Meanwhile, the BJP’s Jairam Thakur – who has been leading his party’s charge since the Rajya Sabha poll reversal – demanded Mr Sukhu resign “if he has even a little bit of morality left”. The Congress “does not have a majority”, he said. He also claimed “there can be many others” after saying nine ‘opposition’ MLAs “are with us”.

  9. The numbers game in Himachal Pradesh was further muddied this morning after the Assembly Speaker expelled 15 BJP MLAs for sloganeering and alleged misconduct. This means the effective strength of the House falls to 53 and the effective majority to 27 – which the Congress can clear. But if the 15 were only suspended, the Congress would then fail, as the House strength remains 68.

  10. If the Congress does lose Himachal, it will underline the size of the challenge facing it and the INDIA bloc – formed last year to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP, and led by the party – before a general election due in just a few weeks.

With input from ANI

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