Congress' rebel legislators in Uttarakhand on Saturday released a sting video of Chief Minister Harish Rawat which, they alleged, showed him indulging in horse-trading to save his government, prompting BJP to meet President Pranab Mukherjee to seek his intervention for his dismissal.
The sting showed the chief minister, allegedly offering money to legislators to vote for his government in the vote of confidence mandated by Governor K.K. Paul before March 28.
Releasing the video, rebel Congress lawmaker Harak Singh Rawat said that the chief minister was trying to bribe the nine rebel Congress legislators as well as few of those of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He also alleged that the rebels have been receiving life threats.
Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had served notice to nine rebels, seeking their responses by March 26 (Saturday) on why they should not be disqualified from membership of the house under the anti-defection law for violating the party discipline and aligning with the opposition BJP.
Harak Singh also said that the sting video clearly showed that the chief minister was talking of offering Rs.5 crore to each legislator to return to the party and was also heard saying "chalo maamla saste mein nipat gaya (The issue has been settled at a cheap price)".
"We have expressed concern over our security to the central government as we are getting threats. We've asked them to make arrangements for us. We have also requested the governor to immediately dismiss such a corrupt government of the mafia," he added.
"We have also written a letter to the President Pranab Mukherjee to take objection to the whole situatiom. There is a constitutional crisis in the state," he said.
Soon after the sting was released, the chief minister held a press conference where he accused the journalist, who conducted the sting, of conniving with opposition parties to "destablise his government and bring a bad name to the state". The BJP and the people behind the sting operation, he charged, were "immoral and greedy".
Nine Congress legislators led by Harak Singh had rebelled against the chief minister couple of weeks back when they sought a vote division on the floor of the house. The speaker rejected the demand.
Before the crisis, the Congress had 36 legislators in the 70-member assembly. The ruling party also has the support of six members of the Progressive Democratic Front, while the BJP has 28 legislators.
Meanwhile, a BJP delegation on Saturday met the president to seek his intervention in the Uttarakhand political crisis and demanded that Congress government be dismissed at the earliest as it has lost its majority in the state assembly.
"There is no need of vote of confidence as it has already been proved by a sting operation that Rawat has been indulging in unfair means to win numbers. Uttarakhand government is already in minority and president's rule must be imposed in the state at the earliest," BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told reporters after the meeting.
He said this is necessary to avoid any "corrupt practice" - alluding to the horse trading charge against Chief Minister Rawat.
"Even if they (Congress) prove majority in the house, it will be muder of democracy," he said, adding that the president has assured them of necessary action.
Harish Rawat, however denied the charges as baseless and his Congress also backed him, accusing the BJP of releasing a fake sting and using shameful tactics of defaming the state government.
"After Uttarakhand High Court's decision to dismiss the petition filed by the rebel Congress MLAs challenging the notice issued to them by assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal, the BJP is now resorting to dirty politics of releasing a fake sting to defame the state government," said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is among the Congress rebels, however, sought imposition of president's rule in the state saying: "Rawat has lost all the moral grounds to remain in power."