How Congress Lost Himachal Plot

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Premonition, Betrayal And Hard Luck: How Congress Lost Himachal Plot

Abhishek Singhvi lost the election despite the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu government’s comfortable majority

Shimla:

The election to one Rajya Sabha seat has upset the power equations in Himachal Pradesh. The Congress, which had a comfortable majority of 40 in a 68-member Assembly, is now firefighting to save its government. The party has rushed senior leaders Bhupender Hooda and DK Shivakumar to the hill state for damage control. The BJP, a fast mover in these situations, has already met Governor Shiv Pratap Shukla amid buzz that it may bring a no-confidence motion against the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu government. Here’s a look at how BJP pulled off a stunner and altered turned the tables

How Were Numbers Stacked Up

The 68-member House has 40 MLAs from Congress, 25 from BJP and three Independents. The Congress chose senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi as its candidate. The BJP, despite being at a numerical disadvantage, forced a contest by fielding veteran politician Harsh Mahajan, earlier with the Congress.

The Premonition

Ahead of the voting, Chief Minister Sukhu said that the Congress has 40 MLAs and will get all votes “if no one gets sold”. The rider underlined the Congress’s fears that the BJP has a plan. State minister Harshwardhan Chauhan was more articulate. “The BJP has only 25 MLAs. Even without numbers, BJP is fielding their candidate. This means they’re planning horse-trading,” he said. The Congress also issued a whip for its MLAs to prevent cross-voting, a move the BJP called “unethical”.

A Shock Result

At the end of the counting, both Mr Singvi and Mr Mahajan were tied at 34 votes each – meaning six Congress MLAs and three Independents voted in favour of the BJP candidate. What followed was a tie-breaker by a draw of lots, and the BJP’s Harsh Mahajan got an Upper House ticket despite all odds. According to a former Chief Election Commissioner, the draw of lots in a Rajya Sabha election tie-breaker is an elimination pick, meaning that the person whose name is on the slip gets eliminated and the other wins.

The Reactions

Shortly after his shocking defeat, Mr Singvi said the election had “taught me a lesson, how people can change their principles and ideologies overnight”.

“The nine MLAs who cross-voted had dinner with us on Monday night. Three of them also had breakfast with us in the morning. But they voted against me,” he said.

“Normally, in a draw of lots, the name that is taken out is that of the winner, but under the strange rule of the Election Commission, which I came to know about only on Tuesday, the name of the candidate taken out, which was mine, lost,” the Congress leader said.

Winner Harsh Majahan said the victory belongs to BJP. “Cross-voting was done because MLAs were verbal about being unhappy with the government,” he told news agency ANI.

The Aftermath

Within 24 hours, the fight for a Rajya Sabha seat has turned into a battle of survival for the Sukhu government. The BJP claims that the state government has lost the confidence of the House. The six rebel MLAs were taken away by Haryana police, Mr Sukhu said last night. The MLAs have been reportedly lodged at a resort in Panchkula and have met Himachal BJP chief Rajeev Bindal. 

“From the recent political point of view of the developments that have taken place in Himachal Pradesh, it can be said that the state government has lost the moral right to stay in power,” Leader of the Opposition Jai Ram Thakur has said.

“We have informed the Governor about what happened in the Assembly recently. We informed him about the behaviour of the Speaker towards the Opposition MLAs,” he said.

On being asked about how many Congress legislators are in contact with the BJP, he said, “I cannot tell you this now. I just want to say that Congress has lost mandate.”

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