Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu
Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh SukhuImage@sukhusukhvinder

It's been a somewhat narrow escape for the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh. Earlier this week, after Congress' Abhishek Manu Singhvi lost the sole Rajya Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh to BJP's Harsh Mahajan, political corridors were replete with rumors that BJP might resort to horse trading or buyouts of MLAs and move a no-confidence motion.

A day after six Congress MLAs cross-voted in the RS elections in favor of the BJP candidate, the Leader of the Opposition (LOP) in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Jai Ram Thakur met Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla amidst strong speculations of an impending no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu. He also called for the resignation of Himachal Pradesh CM. "The Congress has lost the mandate despite being in majority. They have no right to remain in power," he told reporters on Wednesday.

Reportedly, the six Congress MLAs cross-voted as CM Sukhu faced challenges in maintaining party unity. With the Congress holding 40 out of 68 seats in the assembly and BJP only 25, the defeat paved the way for a no-confidence motion but for timely action by the Congress high command.

Earlier while responding to the queries and allegations Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, had said, "We haven't lost trust, despite their best efforts. We got 34 votes and they got 34 votes after six Congress MLAs cross-voted. 34 MLAs showed their integrity and character despite being given all the allurements."

Speaker disqualifies six rebel Congress MLAs

On Thursday, Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania disqualified the six rebel Congress MLAs namely, Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Devinder Kumar Bhutoo, Ravi Thakur and Chetanya Sharma, during the Budget Session of the Assembly. The grounds for disqualification has been their absence from the Assembly when the State Budget and Finance Bill were being discussed and put to vote, although they have been disqualified under the Anti-Defection Law. The information about their seats lying vacant have been put up on the Assembly's website. Ranjinder Rana, a three-time MLA protested against the decision and said he'd move the Apex Court against it.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu takes responsibility

In an interaction with media, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu said that the buck, for Singhvi's defeat in the Rajya Sabha polls, stops at him. The AICC observers present during the media interaction also asserted that the Congress government, as is the people's mandate, will complete its term of five years and announced that a six-member coordination committee would be set up to sort out its internal differences. Later, as per the reports the CM Sukhu invited party MLAs over for breakfast to address complaints against his style of functioning.

The man of the moment

Karnataka's Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar
Karnataka's Deputy Chief Minister DK ShivakumarIANS

Congress central observer DK Shivakumar is being credited with the tiding over of the crisis, as he rushed to the state and intervened between Sukhu, party MLAs and State unit chief Pratibha Singh. "All the MLAs have assured and taken an oath to work together to save the party and the government," he said. Taking charge of the situation, he announced his visit to the state and also said there was no need to indulge in hearsay. "As per the directions of the Congress high command, I am reaching Himachal Pradesh. Also there is absolutely no need to indulge in any hearsay, as I am confident that Congress Party legislators will be loyal to the party and stay put with the mandate that has been accorded to them," informed Shivakumar via his official media ccounts. He also seized the opportunity to call out the BJP. "However, what should be questioned and worrisome is the extremes to which BJP is going in terms of acquiring power, deliberately attempting to crush democracy and public mandate in the process."

  Despite the storm having subsided, potential future dangers of MLA buyouts looms large on the party, as in the 68 member Assembly, the majority figure is 35. While the ruling Congress has 40 MLAs in its kitty, but with the disqualification of six MLAs, the strength of the assembly has dropped to 62 and Congress has been left with 34. But the ruckus and speculations over the political crisis in Himachal are far from over yet. Three of the disqualified MLAs are said to be camping in Chandigarh and reportedly Congress' Vikramadtiya Singh, who resigned as minister, has met them.