New Delhi: A day before the trial of strength in the state assembly, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Bill, 2016, which the government said was a “constitutional necessity”.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the central government’s decision to impose President’s Rule and asserted that irrespective of “what happens tomorrow”, the “due course” of the constitution will follow.
“Irrespective of what happens tomorrow (Tuesday) — if there is a new government which comes in or the old government which comes in or President’s Rule continues — the due course of the constitution will follow,” he said during a heated debate.
However, Congress members walked out of the lower house after their leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that the government could have waited till Tuesday for the trial of strength for the Harish Rawat government.
Kharge alleged that passing the Uttarakhand budget on the eve of trial of strength was “unconstitutional”.
Making a strong case for the dismissal of the Congress government and imposition of President’s Rule in the hill state just four days before the end of the 2015-16 fiscal, Jaitley said: “We do not want a constitutional crisis in which a situation arises where the state expenditure with effect from April 1 has not been sanctioned.”
He said that without imposing the President’s Rule, the “state would have been pushed into a constitutional crisis, where not a rupee to be spent by Uttarakhand would have been authorised”.
Lashing out at assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, the finance minister said the constitution’s founding fathers envisaged a “rule by majority and not by manipulated majority”.
“Everyone spoke about the floor test. But what happens if the assembly speaker refuses a floor test? And then, he manipulates and changes the character of the assembly itself,” Jaitley asked.
Jaitley said the central government had “three materials (basic reasons)” to act in Uttarakhand and recommend President’s Rule – these included failure to pass budget on March 18, allegations of horse-trading and possible constitutional crisis as the fiscal year was to end.
Participating in the debate, Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said: “We feel that the drama in Uttarakhand has been a sordid drama, a shame on the Indian democracy.” He, however, said “both sides (BJP and Congress) are to be blamed”.
Earlier, Jaitley and Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress clashed repeatedly over the role of the assembly speaker.
At one point, even Sudip Bandyopadhyay, the Trinamool floor leader, said his party was maintaining “equi-distance” from both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Strongly opposing the imposition of central rule in Uttarakhand, Gaurav Gogoi (Congress) charged the government with paying lip service to cooperative federalism.
“It appears you are the judge, you are the jury and you are the executioner,” he said in reference to the finance minister.
Gogoi also made a veiled attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying while he talks of “cooperative federalism”, “in your heart it’s Congress-mukt (free) India”.
During the debate, members from regional parties as well as the Congress opposed what they said was the “abuse of Article 356”.
Jaitley admitted to contentions made by many members, including Gaurav Gogoi (Congress), Tathagata Satpathy (Biju Janata Dal) and Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) that Article 356 had a “chequered” history and has been an “unpopular” legislation.
Moving a statutory resolution against the bill, Biju Janata Dal member Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo questioned how the central government was passing the state budget when the imposition of President’s Rule itself was not ratified either by the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha.
The resolution was, however, countered by Jaitley and other BJP members and it was rejected by a voice vote.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan then put the appropriation bill to vote, after which the house passed it by a voice vote.