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Business News/ Politics / Himachal Congress saw poll loss, rebellion and 'instability' in 24 hours. Can CM Sukhu save his govt?
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Himachal Congress saw poll loss, rebellion and 'instability' in 24 hours. Can CM Sukhu save his govt?

The Himachal Pradesh Congress found itself in trouble after minister Vikramaditya Singh resigned from his post. This sparked fears that CM Sukhvinder Sukhu could lose the majority and the government could fall. Soon, top Congress leaders swung into action to pacify the disgruntled lawmakers.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress leader Rajeev Shukla during a meeting, in Shimla, on Wednesday, February 28. (PTI)Premium
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress leader Rajeev Shukla during a meeting, in Shimla, on Wednesday, February 28. (PTI)

In less than 24 hours, the Congress suffered a dramatic loss in the Himachal Pradesh Rajya Sabha elections and a state minister's resignation sparked speculation about the state government's "instability". But the passage of the Himachal Pradesh budget through a voice vote came as a relief for the Congress government in the state.

The fact that six Congress MLAs had cross-voted for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha elections on Tuesday raised concerns for the Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh government. The BJP had claimed that CM Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu had lost majority in the assembly.

Follow Himachal Pradesh Political Crisis Live Updates here

In the wake of this political turmoil, the passing of the state budget was a crucial test for the Congress. The budget was pending approval in the assembly and the BJP, with the help of Congress rebels, had been ensuring that the budget was not passed and was seeking a division of votes.

But, after the state budget for 2024-25, presented by Sukhu, was successfully passed in the assembly on Wednesday, the chief minister said he would complete the term and run the government for the entire five years.

"...I want to say one thing; the people of Himachal are with us and MLAs are with us and I can definitely say that we will run the Himachal government for five years," Sukhu was quoted by PTI as saying.

The budget was passed in the absence of BJP members as 15 of them were suspended for misbehaviour, while the remaining 10 staged a walkout in protest against the suspension of its members.

Himachal Pradesh's leader of the Opposition Jairam Thakur claimed that the Congress did not have a majority to pass the budget, "so they suspended 15 BJP MLAs without any reason".

'Sukhu-led govt is stable': What's happening in Himachal Congress now?

1. Himachal Pradesh Minister Anirudh Singh said that CM Sukhu-led Congress government is stable and will stay in power. "It is not yet decided where the party meeting will be held...," he said. CM Sukhu said, "Neither the high command has asked me nor anyone else for resignation and there is no such thing." He added, “Our government is safe."

2. As soon as the rebellion within the Congress came to light after Rajya Sabha poll results, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge swung into action to pacify the disgruntled Congress MLAs and sent Bhupinder Singh Hooda and DK Shivakumar to Shimla. It was reported that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also spoke with Sukhu and took stock of the political situation in the state.

The MLAs are learnt to have been "disappointed" with the working style of Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu and are seeking his replacement.

3. Himachal Pradesh minister Vikramaditya Singh resigned from his post on Wednesday. Sukhu called Singh “younger brother", adding that Singh's resignation as the minister has not been accepted yet. "He has some grievances that will be solved," the CM said.

Sukhu also acknowledged that a few Congress MLAs "may be upset" with him. "But not voting for candidates who should have been sent to the Rajya Sabha from Himachal is betrayal with the party," he said.

4. Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu also said that one of the six MLAs who had voted for the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls asked “to forgive him as he has betrayed the party...People of the state will give them an answer..."

5. Meanwhile, a disqualification motion has been brought against the six Congress MLAs who had voted for the BJP candidate in Rajya Sabha polls. Himachal Pradesh Assembly Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania reserved the order on the motion.

Can CM Sukhu save his govt?

Before the Rajya Sabha election results, it was clear that the Congress had a comfortable majority in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly. In the 2022 Himachal assembly election, the Congress won 40 seats and got support from the three independent MLAs. A total of 43 MLAs supported the Congress. The BJP won 25 seats.

However, the number of MLAs in support of the Congress seems to have changed after the Rajya Sabha polls. With the nine MLAs (six Congress and three independents) cross-voting in favour of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls, the ruling Congress is now left with 34 supporters in the assembly.

A political party needs the support of 35 MLAs to win the majority in the Himachal Pradesh assembly. So, with 34 MLAs, the Congress seems to be on the back foot. Similar is the case for the BJP which has 25 MLAs and nine rebels in its support.

But 15 BJP MLAs were suspended from the state assembly on Wednesday. This reduced the BJP's number in the assembly to 19. Also, with these suspensions, a party needs the support of 27 MLAs in the assembly to prove majority. The Congress could easily cross this number with 34 MLAs, but the BJP won't with 19 MLAs. In this case, more defections will hurt the Congress.

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Published: 28 Feb 2024, 08:23 PM IST
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