Rebel MLAs release sting, accuse Uttarakhand CM of horse-trading; Rawat defends govt

New Delhi: Rebel Congress MLAs of Uttarakhand on Saturday released a sting video of Chief Minister Harish Rawat here and alleged that he was indulging in horse-trading to save his government, prompting BJP to call for dismissal of the state government. The sting released by rebel Congress MLAs showed CM Harish Rawat, where he is seen allegedly offering money to legislators to vote for his government in the vote of confidence mandated by governor KK Paul, before March 28. Releasing the video, rebel Congress MLA Harak Singh Rawat said that the chief minister was trying to bribe the nine rebel Congress MLAs and few other BJP MLAs. He also alleged that the rebel MLAs have been receiving life threats. Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal had served notice to nine rebel Congress legislators, 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 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "There is an attempt by the CM to bribe the nine rebel MLAs and few other BJP MLAs. The Uttarakhand government is indulging in horse-trading of the MLAs," said one of the rebel MLAs Harak Singh Rawat. He 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 government of India 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 mafias," he added. Rawat further said: "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."  Soon after the sting was released, CM Harish Rawat held a press conference and accused the journalist, who conducted the sting, of conniving with opposition parties to "destablize 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 opposition BJP has 28 legislators. Meanwhile, the BJP on Saturday sought dismissal of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat after rebel Congress legislators of the state released the sting video.  "After the release of the sting video, Rawat has no moral right to remain as chief minister even for a minute. His government must be dismissed. We are going to meet President in the evening and will ask him to immediately dismiss the state government," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya said here at a press conference. However, backing Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Saturday, the Congress blamed 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 heading the rebel Congress legislators, however, sought imposition of president's rule in the state saying, "Rawat has lost all the moral grounds to remian in power."