SC to declare U'khand floor test result today

New Delhi: Sacked Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Tuesday appeared to have clinched the numbers in the floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly with 33 of the 61 MLAs said to have voted for him.

However, the official result of Tuesday's Uttarakhand trust vote will be known when the Supreme Court announces it on Wednesday, but an early hint came yesterday morning when a BMW screeched to a halt before the Assembly.

It was just past 10.30am. The state's two Bahujan Samaj Party members, Sarwat Karim Ansari and Haridas, got off the car and walked towards the Assembly gates, stopping momentarily to nod to a few BJP members.

They then turned towards deposed chief minister Harish Rawat of the Congress and hugged him before walking inside with him.

A while later, Mayawati confirmed in Delhi that her party would support Rawat.

"We have always opposed communal forces. Our two MLAs have reached the Assembly and will vote for the Congress," she told reporters outside Parliament just before the floor test was to start.

The disqualification of nine Congress rebels had reduced the House's effective voting strength from 70 to 61 (excluding the Speaker, who votes only in a tie), leaving Rawat requiring 31 votes, a number the Congress claimed yesterday that it already had.

That left the BJP's 28 members and Mayawati's 2, who yesterday held their cards close to their chest.

Tuesday afternoon, when the lawmakers began trooping out of the Assembly after the trust vote, their faces reflected the possible outcome.

Glum-looking BJP members mostly headed to the JSR Continental Hotel across the road where party general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, assigned with "Operation Uttarakhand", was lodged.

Asked about the result, BJP member Ganesh Joshi was silent for a while before his frustration boiled over when he was told a joyous Congress was already claiming victory. "The BJP has won the battle of principles but lost the game of numbers. Money power has won," he said.

The Congress members emerged from the House smiling and making the 'V' sign.

"We have won the trust vote," an excited Sarita Arya announced before the television cameras. "We got the support of 33 MLAs and the BJP managed just 28."

Asked whether she wasn't risking contempt charges since the apex court had forbidden anyone else to declare the outcome, she replied: "I cannot lie to the media."

Vijayvargiya, huddled inside the hotel with Sangh representatives, such as deputy secretary (organisation) Shiv Prakash, avoided the media. But Shyam Jaju, the BJP vice-president in charge of Uttarakhand affairs, accepted defeat.

"We got the support of 28 members. One Congress MLA came out to support us. We will continue our fight against the corrupt Harish Rawat," Jaju said.

Searching for positives, BJP members claimed one Congress MLA, Rekha Arya, had voted for their side. However, BJP member Bhimlal Arya is believed to have levelled the score by voting for Rawat.

A throng of reporters surrounded Rawat as he stepped out of the Assembly but the Congress leader chose to suppress his excitement. He limited himself to thanking the judiciary and saying the suspense would be lifted Wednesday.

Later in the afternoon, however, he ended up virtually making a victory speech at a "justice march" organised by his party.

"I thank all the supporters, MLAs, Supreme Court and the people of Uttarakhand. The clouds of uncertainty will blow over Wednesday," Rawat said.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide Wednesday the question of Rawat once again assuming the chief minister's post. Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Tuesday made a special mention before a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh around 1.15pm, informing it that Rawat had won the floor test.

Rawat was removed as chief minister when the Centre imposed President's rule on March 27.

Tuesday he retweeted a post by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that said: "Uttarakhand floor test outcome is huge setback to Modi govt. Hope they will stop toppling governments."

Congress senior Ghulam Nabi Azad, here to oversee the trial of strength, said: "This is a moral defeat for the BJP."