President’s Rule was imposed in Uttarakhand on Sunday after days of political uncertainty triggered by a rebellion in the ruling Congress, prompting Chief Minister Harish Rawat to accuse the BJP-led central government of murdering democracy.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan source said President Pranab Mukherjee approved the union cabinet’s decision to dismiss the Rawat-led Congress government. The cabinet met Saturday night with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the chair and recommended central rule in the hill state.
The president signed the proclamation, which also recommended placing the state assembly in suspended animation, the source said. This is Uttarakhand’s first experience with President’s Rule since it was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Governor K.K. Paul, the chief minister did not spare the central government and Prime Minister Modi too.
Modi had the “blood of the aspirations of the people of Uttarakhand on his hands”, he said, alleging that the BJP-led central government slashed the budget for his state and even cut funds for the restoration of the Kedarnath temple, devastated by the 2013 flash floods, and the Kumbh Mela.
He hinted that the Congress may move court against the decision to impose President’s Rule.
“We will take support to all legal options. This will be decided by our advocates. I was heading a very delicate majority. If Congress comes back to power, we will increase the Vidhan Sabha seats from 70 to 90.”
The central government justified the Uttarakhand decision, saying the state was “a textbook case for enforcing President’s Rule” on grounds of “breakdown of governance”.
“I believe there cannot be a better example (for implementing President’s Rule),” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in New Delhi. “For the last nine days, the constitution was being violated in Uttarakhand.”
The crisis in the state began when nine Congress legislators, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who Rawat replaced, revolted against the chief minister and turned to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was happy to support them.
On March 18, things came to a head when the assembly passed the budget appropriation bill by voice vote even as more than half the members in the house sought a division, which would have led to recorded voting.
The rebel Congress lawmakers supported the BJP’s demand for a conscience vote. Speaker Govind Kunjwal declined the request.
Before the rebellion, the Congress had 36 members in the 70-member house and the BJP 31. With nine of its lawmakers aligning with the BJP, the Congress was left with 27 and six from smaller parties backing the Rawat government. The chief minister was asked to prove his majority on Monday but the central government decided to act a day earlier.
On Saturday, the 69-year-old chief minister was shown striking an alleged multi-crore rupees deal for bringing the rebels back into the party. The sting operation was aired by an Uttarakhand channel.
The Congress leader denied the allegation and accused the BJP of “buying” the Congress rebels to topple his government. He said his two former colleagues – Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat – had connived with the BJP.
The Congress said it was not surprised.
“The real desire of the government of India is to bring down duly-elected governments of small states in an undemocratic and unconstitutional manner,” party general secretary Ambika Soni said.
“At every step, constitutional rules have been broken…it is so glaring for everyone to see.”
The Uttarakhand decision also came under fire from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said his party was not averse to forming the next government in Uttarakhand if given an opportunity.