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Himachal: Chaos in Assembly as BJP Gears up For a Takeover, Late Virbhadra Singh's Son Quits Cabinet

The former state CM and BJP leader met the Himachal Governor to ask for a floor test ahead of the budget session today, raising questions on the future of the Sukhu government.
BJP's Himachal legislature party chief, former chief minister Jai Ram Thakur, at Raj Bhavan with party leaders. Photo: Official Facebook account.

Chandigarh: A day after winning the Rajya Sabha polls largely thanks to cross-voting within the Congress’s ranks, the Bharatiya Janata Party has swung into action to ostensibly engineer the collapse of the Congress government headed by Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

In what is believed to be the first move, BJP’s Himachal legislature party headed by former chief minister Jai Ram Thakur met Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla this morning (February 28) and urged him to allow for the division of votes before the state budget is passed today in the ongoing budget session so that the Congress can “prove” its majority in the House.

Later in the day, during the budget session, commotion was seen in the house with opposition reiterating its demand on the division of votes and Sukhu’s resignation. However the assembly speaker suspended 15 BJP MLAs including Jai Ram Thakur for misbehaviour and adjourned the House. Despite this, BJP MLAs refused to budge and leave the House.

Amid the intense frenzy, CM Sukhu appeared before reporters and rubbished reports of his resignation. He said his government was here to stay and would complete the full five-year term. “We are working in war-footing manner and will not let BJP succeed in its nefarious plans,” he added.

Virbhadra family amps up pressure as son resigns from Sukhu cabinet

It is speculated that there is a coup of sorts in progress within the Congress – the outcome of infighting between Sukhu and Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Singh, wife of eight-time Congress chief minister, the late Virbhadra Singh.

Pratibha, it is believed, had been hoping for the CM’s post after Congress won the state election in November 2022, but the party instead made Sukhu the chief minister.

Most of the six MLAs who now are rebelling against the party are believed to be former loyalists of Virbhadra.

Adding to the turmoil within the Congress party, the late Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya announced his resignation from the council of ministers, alleging that the Sukhu government has “humiliated its own MLAs several times”

Talking to media in Shimla, he said that it is not right for him to continue in the government in such circumstances. He said he has briefed the party. “Now the party high command has to decide where Congress is headed next in Himachal”.

Thakur says Congress government has lost mandate

Thakur told reporters after meeting the governor that the Sukhu government had lost its mandate to stay in power. He said the governor was apprised of latest political developments in the state.

“The assembly speaker did not entertain our demand for the division of votes despite the provision in the law. It was obvious that the CM is scared of since he does not have the numbers now to stay in government,” Thakur told reporters outside the Governor’s House in state capital of Shimla.

As the Budget Session begins in some time from now, the state gears up for some degree of political drama. It is learnt that the Sukhu government is mulling the suspension of some BJP lawmakers before the passing of the budget to avoid a floor test.

Meanwhile, Congress has been busy convincing six Congress MLAs and three independents who were earlier supporting the Sukhu government but who cross voted for BJP in Tuesday’s RS election.

Karnataka deputy CM D.K. Shivkumar and former Haryana CM Bhupinder Hooda are on their way to Shimla as part of Congress’s damage control exercise.

BJP’s Jai Ram Thakur, however, claimed that Congress was unduly penalising these MLAs by serving an anti-defection law notice on them and asking them to appear before the Speaker today afternoon. The move is against the law as the anti-defection law does not apply in the Rajya Sabha polls, he said.

Many from BJP camp have already started claiming that the party will soon form the government in the state.

BJP’s Harsh Mahajan – who won the Rajya Sabha election against Congress’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi – said as much to reporters a short while ago. “Some more MLAs of Congress are in touch with us,” he said. A Congress leader who switched sides in 2022, Mahajan also claimed that he got phone calls from some Congress MLAs and ministers.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Sanjay Raut has said that BJP is doing what it can do best. “What else can BJP do? BJP through money, power, and agencies can do this only. They can topple governments and buy MLAs. This happened in both Himachal and Uttar Pradesh,” he said.

What happens to the Sukhu government

Before Tuesday’s high-voltage political drama, Congress had 40 MLAs and the support of three more Independents who tided it over the majority mark of 35 in the 68-member state assembly.

After nine MLAs – six of Congress and three independents – cross voted for BJP in Tuesday’s Rajya Sabha polls, the Congress government is technically now one short of the majority mark.

Congress MLAs who cross voted include Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chaitanya Sharma and Devender Bhutto while the independents are K.L. Thakur, Hoshiyar Singh and Ashish Sharma.

More Congress MLAs, as BJP claims, are sitting on the fence, ready to switch sides as they were unhappy with the functioning of the current government.

The six who cross-voted are all incommunicado since casting their votes. As per media reports, they were first taken to Panchkula in Haryana late on Tuesday evening. They were reportedly accompanied by the three independents.

As per video footages released by section of media, these MLAs were shown leaving Panchkula hotel some time ago.

This is a developing story and will be updated as news comes in.

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