On the eve of floor test in Uttarakhand, the Lok Sabha today passed the four-month budget for the state with the government insisting that it was a constitutional requirement even as several opposition parties questioned the “haste” in view of tomorrow’s action.
Piloting the Appropriation Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Parliament has to pass the bill “irrespective of what happens tomorrow” as it had made provisions for expenditure in the state since April 1.
Congress, whose government led by Harish Rawat had been dismissed in March, staged a walkout to protest the government action of piloting the bill. The bill was passed by voice vote in its absence.
The development came even as Uttarakhand is set to have a vote of confidence tomorrow to determine whether Congress leader Harish Rawat has enough numbers to retain power in the state that is currently under the President’s Rule.
Responding to criticism by various parties for imposing the President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, Jaitley put up a strong defence, arguing that the state would have otherwise plunged into a constitutional crisis.
Though he agreed with views of several members that the decisions of Speakers could not be a subject of judicial approval, he wondered what will happen if a Speaker declared the majority as minority and vice-versa as was done by, according to him, by the Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker.
“There was a serious doubt and cloud” whether the budget was approved by the state assembly on March 18, he said.
“The rule is floor test. What if a Speaker refuses to test the floor? What if a Speaker says I will change the characteristic of the floor and then test it?… The majority failed the budget but the Speaker passed,” he said defending the imposition of the President’s rule.
“Constitution envisages the rule by majority not rule by manipulative majority,” he said and then later wondered if democracy will be held to ransom by such a a malafide.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of “murdering” democracy and the constitution as he led a walkout by his party.
Kalikesh Singh Deo (BJD) also opposed the imposition of Section 356, under which a state government is dismissed and the President’s rule imposed, saying it has its roots in the British raj and has often been misused.
Jaitley said there are several judicial decisions, including the ommai judgement, and that courts have shown tendencies to be “carried by times”.
While moving the Appropriation Bill for consideration, Jaitley said its passage will not have any bearing on the Vote of Confidence which will take place in the assembly tomorrow.
The Vote of Confidence in the state assembly can either restore the existing government, establish a new government or result in continuation of the President’s rule, he said.
Jaitley said the state government, current or a new one, would be free to come out with its own budget as the Appropriation Bill seeks funds for only four months of the current fiscal.
Responding to objections over moving the bill, Jaitley said the state Governor had not given its approval to the budget and in absence of the approval, it could not be deemed to have been passed by the House on March 18.
Under the order of the Supreme Court, the President Rule will be suspended for two hours tomorrow in Uttarakhand to allow Harish Rawat government to seek vote of confidence in the state assembly.