It was a smooth sailing for the fledgling Congress government in Uttarakhand to pass its first acid test on Monday, after Govind Singh Kunjwal, a Congress MLA from Jageshwar in Almora district, was elected speaker of the state Assembly through a secret ballot.
In what was seen as a virtual trial of strength for Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna in the midst of a prolonged crisis in the state Congress, Kunjwal, a die-hard supporter of Union minister Harish Rawat, defeated the BJP’s Harbans Kapoor by a convincing margin of eight votes.
After the election of Kunjwal, Congress sources said Bahuguna will not seek any trust vote in the House since he has not got any instruction from Governor Margaret Alva in this regard.
In other words, this also means that rebel Union minister Harish Rawat has bailed out the state government as of now. “I am happy that Kunjwal has won. But Vijay Bahuguna must take all the remaining steps to fulfill the aspiration of our party supporters,” Rawat said.
Kunjwal, who scored a hat-trick this time, got 39 votes against 31 of Kapoor in the house where a total 70 votes were polled. Kunjwal's victory looked certain as Congress, which has a strength of 32 in the House of 70, had already mustered the support of seven non-BJP MLAs which include three independents MLAs, the lone member of the UKD and three members of the BSP. All the seven voted in favour of Kunjwal giving much respite to Bahuguna ahead of the first session of the House which is beginning tomorrow with the address of Governor Margaret Alva.
However, the media was not allowed in the press gallery during the voting, a move decried by the BJP members. "We are very angry that the media was not allowed in the press gallery during the voting," said B S Chufal, state BJP chief.
Earlier in the day, Bahuguna made a passionate plea to the opposition BJP to withdraw the candidate for the speaker in lines of the highest traditions of the democracy. However, the BJP turned down the request and pressed for voting in its desperate bid to fish in troubled waters.
Later Bahuguna congratulated the new speaker and hoped that he would maintain the highest standards of democracy earning confidence of both the ruling and opposition parties.