For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Himachal: Congress Claims Flock Together as Speaker Disqualifies 6 Rebel MLAs of Party

CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu held a breakfast meeting earlier in the day with remaining party MLAs to keep the flock together.
Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu at a temple on February 28. Photo: X/video screengrab/@SukhuSukhvinder

Chandigarh: Himachal assembly speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania on February 29 disqualified six rebel Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law two days after they voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in Rajya Sabha polls.

Those disqualified are lawmakers Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chaitanya Sharma and Devender Bhutto.

The decision is seen as Congress’s attempt to quell rebellion within the party ever since cross-voting by these six MLAs prompted BJP to engineer the collapse of Congress’s Himachal Pradesh government under Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

Lawyers representing these disqualified MLAs called the move illegal and are likely to challenge it in the high court. Congress, meanwhile, said that the move would be vital in keeping its remaining flock together.

Before disqualifying these six MLAs, Sukhu invited all remaining 34 MLAs of the party for a breakfast meeting at his office-residence in Shimla to ensure that there is no further defection in the party.

While not all MLAs reached in time for breakfast, Congress claimed that the government was stable and that all remaining MLAs stand solid with the party.

Three Congress observers – D.K. Shivkumar, Bhupesh Baghel and Bhupinder Hooda – believed to have been sent by the party high command to handle the Himachal situation, were also present in the meeting. They interacted with MLAs present and assured them that concerns with the government will soon be resolved.

Earlier at night, these leaders also appeared to have placated Congress MLA Vikramaditya Singh – at least temporarily. The son of late Congress CM Virbhadra Singh, who resigned on Wednesday from Sukhu cabinet, had cited that party MLAs were being humiliated in the Congress government.

Virbhadra said that Congress observers had told him that his concerns would be addressed. However, he did not appear at today’s breakfast meeting.

Sukhu government on the brink of a majority mark

Before the disqualification of these six Congress MLAs, Congress had a strength of 40 in 68-member state assembly. Besides, it enjoyed support of three independents too. The remaining 25 belonged to the BJP.

The strength of the House has now reduced to 62 after the Speaker’s disqualification move against these six Congress rebels, with magic majority mark currently standing at 32.

Given the current situation, there is no immediate danger to the Sukhu government since it claims to enjoy the support of the remaining 34 MLAs of the party.

But the danger is not fully over since any further defections in the party may spell doom for the Sukhu government and trigger its collapse – something the BJP is eyeing.

While the Congress leadership claims that their Himachal government is safe and will complete a full five years, there is also no denying to the fact that it nows sits on the fence of a majority mark.

Several BJP leaders have already claimed that Sukhu government days are numbered as more Congress MLAs would switch sides soon.

Technically speaking, BJP is also not far from the majority mark. With 25 MLAs and 3 independents, it now has 28 MLAs to its side against the 34 in the Congress.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter