CM Sukhu calls rebels 'black serpents', also makes placatory moves as Himachal crisis simmers

If somebody realises his mistake, he can be forgiven, but first these MLAs should come out of the 'jail' they have been in for the past 72 hours, Sukhu said.
Last Updated 01 March 2024, 16:19 IST

Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Friday said he gave the go-ahead to minister Vikramaditya Singh to meet the rebels who cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha polls, in what appeared to be a placatory gesture even as he called the same six MLAs “black serpents”.

Vikramaditya Singh, who is the son of the party’s state unit president Pratibha Singh, was also scheduled to meet Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge in Delhi as the crisis in the Himachal Congress simmered.

In another possible move to pacify the disgruntled section in the party’s state unit, Sukhu appointed Rampur MLA Nand Lal chairman of 7th State Finance Commission with the status of a cabinet minister.

The MLA picked for the post is considered close to Vikramaditya Singh and Pratibha Singh. She reiterated Friday her grouse that party workers were ignored by Sukhu after the Congress came to power in the state over a year back.

Six Congress MLAs triggered the Himachal crisis this week when they voted for BJP candidate Harsh Mahajan in the Rajya Sabha election for the lone seat from the state.

The MLAs voting for the Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi failed to make it past the half-way mark in 68-member House.

Later, Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania disqualified the six from the assembly after the Congress complained that they had kept away from voting on the state budget despite a party whip. Fifteen BJP MLAs were suspended over a ruckus in the House.

Amid the crisis, Vikramaditya Singh announced his resignation from the cabinet but softened his stand later after a meeting with the Congress observers, who were scrambled to the Shimla by the party’s central leadership.

Disqualified MLAs Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Rajinder Rana, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chetanya Sharma and Devinder Kumar Bhutto are holed up in a hotel in Haryana’s Panchkula, where Singh met them late Thursday night while on his way to Delhi.

The state public works department minister was also scheduled to meet Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Kharge during his two-day trip to Delhi.

At a public rally at Dharampur in Solan district, Sukhu slammed the rebels calling them “six black snakes” (kale naag) who tried to destabilise the party. 'How can people who sell their honour for money serve people of their constituencies,' he said.

In Shimla, the CM told reporters that the PWD minister informed him Thursday that some of the Congress rebels wished to come back.

"I told Vikramaditya Singh to talk to these rebel MLAs and the Congress central leadership," the Chief Minister said.

He said that Singh will meet Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge “and we will see what development takes place”.

“But there is no threat to the (state) government,' he claimed.

Asked whether the Congress would take the rebels back, Sukhu referred to a previous remark that the party was ready for this.

Pratibha Singh, the wife of former CM Virbhadra Singh - who died in 2021 - on Friday repeated that the crisis could have been averted had the MLAs’ grievances been addressed in time.

She claimed there had been acrimony towards Sukhu for 'ignoring' party workers after the assembly polls win.

"Fourteen months is a long period and I have been consistently urging the chief minister to accommodate leaders who worked hard for the party’s victory. But nothing was done," she said.

She said Rajinder Rana - one of the rebel MLAs – is a 'tall leader' who defeated former chief minister P K Dhumal and expected a cabinet berth. The Congress leader, however, added that all issues have now been settled.

She also dismissed rumours that she is joining the BJP.

Following the disqualification of the rebel MLAs, the effective strength of the House has reduced from 68 to 62 while the number of Congress MLAs has shrunk from 40 to 34.

The BJP has 25 MLAs and the remaining three are Independents.

The Independent MLAs were among the nine MLAs who cross-voted in favour of the BJP candidate.

(Published 01 March 2024, 16:19 IST)

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