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Speaker swings it for Cong
- Three MLAs barred from voting in Goa floor test
Rane (top), Kamat

New Delhi, July 30: Goa chief minister Digamber Kamat held on to power today after three legislators opposed to the Congress-led regime were not allowed to vote during the Assembly floor test before the Speaker cast his ballot to tilt the balance.

Angry BJP-led Opposition members, who stormed out of the House, slammed the trial of strength as a “mockery of democracy” and accused the Speaker of all possible “malpractice”.

Three MLAs — Sudin Dhavalikar, Dipak Dhavalikar and Congress rebel Victoria Fernandes — were restrained from voting when the Assembly session began at 2.30 this afternoon.

This reduced the strength of the BJP-led Goa Democratic Alliance to 18, the same as that of the Congress-led combine, in the 40-member House.

Kamat later moved the confidence motion and Speaker Pratapsinh Rane called for a voice vote.

BJP sources said the party might put Goa back on President Pratibha Patil’s table but conceded that the “shock” defeat was another setback to Rajnath Singh’s leadership.

The sources said the party chief was personally involved in micro-managing the developments with the help of “trusted” general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who is in charge of Goa, and didn’t just leave things to former chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

Rudy said they had asked governor S.C. Jamir to look into two complaints.

One, the Speaker had “flouted” the governor’s directive to start the day’s proceedings with the trial of strength. “Instead, he took up the matter of restraining the three MLAs from voting,” he said.

Two, why did the Speaker cast his “deciding” vote without allowing for a division of votes to ascertain whether the ruling coalition and the Opposition were evenly divided or not' “This is a serious irregularity,” Rudy said.

The BJP leader said if the governor doesn’t grant them a reprieve, his party would march to the President, go to Parliament and hit the streets.

The BJP also accused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of extending “extra-constitutional support”. “Both these leaders have planned an institutional framework to subvert democracy at will,” said Arun Jaitley.

The Congress claimed there was nothing amiss about its “victory”. “We did what the BJP taught us in 2005. When there was a vote of confidence, they similarly disqualified some MLAs, stopped them from voting and won the trial,” said B.K. Hari Prasad, a party general secretary.

The GDA MLAs will leave for Delhi tomorrow to meet the President, agencies said.

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