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OPINION | HIMACHAL PRADESH: CONGRESS IN CATCH-22 SITUATION

The Speaker of the assembly, Kuldeep Singh Pathania, has disqualified six Congress MLAs for defying party whip in the Rajya Sabha elections. All the six rebel Congress MLAs will now cease to be members of the assembly.

Edited By: Nivedita Dash @Nivedita0503 New Delhi Updated on: February 29, 2024 16:38 IST
India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma
Image Source : INDIA TV India TV Editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma

In damage control mode, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, on Thursday met party MLAs at his residence, but the meeting was not attended by Late Virbhadra Singh’s widow Pratibha Singh and her son Vikramaditya Singh. Meanwhile, the Speaker of the assembly, Kuldeep Singh Pathania, has disqualified six Congress MLAs for defying party whip in the Rajya Sabha elections. All the six rebel Congress MLAs will now cease to be members of the assembly. Three top central observers, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Bhupesh Baghel and D K Shivakumar are in Shimla trying to bring about a patch-up between both camps.  

On Wednesday, Vikramaditya Singh had resigned from Sukhu’s cabinet but later retracted after persuasion by central observers. Vikramaditya Singh alleged that the Sukhu government did not grant even “two yards of land” to instal a statue of his father Late Virbhadra Singh at The Mall in Shimla. He also alleged that senior and mass-based leaders in the party are being ignored by the chief minister. Vikramaditya Singh said, he has not withdrawn his resignation, but he will not press on it till the time talks are over. Inside the Assembly on Wednesday, the Speaker suspended 15 BJP members and the House passed the state budget by voice vote. The House was then adjourned. 

The Speaker’s ruling disqualifying the six rebel Congress MLAs was a foregone conclusion. Naturally, the matter will go to court and it will be a long drawn one. For the moment, the Congress government in HP will be saved, but will Sukhu have to quit his throne? It is for the Congress High Command to decide. Looking at the tense relationships between Vikramaditya Singh and Sukhu, it looks difficult that a solution might come soon. Congress leaders are not ruling out change in leadership, but any decision will be taken only after the three central observers return to Delhi and submit their report. On the other hand, BJP is in a win-win situation. 

The Congress failed to get its candidate elected despite having 43 MLAs in a House of 68. BJP with 25 MLAs got its candidate elected. BJP leaders are happy for the time being, but Congress leaders, too, are happy that at least the government is saved for the time being. But the path ahead is not smooth. With 6 rebel MLAs disqualified, the majority mark in the House is now 32, and Congress presently has 34 MLAs. For the time being, there is no danger to the Congress government, but if the party does not change its chief minister, the faction led by Vikramaditya Singh will become restless. If the CM is changed, Sukhu’s supporters will create problems. For the Congress high command, it is a Catch-22 situation.

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