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Himachal crisis: FIR against independent MLA, Cong rebel's father over 'electoral offences'

Shimla, Mar 10 (PTI) Amid a political crisis in Himachal Pradesh, police on Sunday registered a case against an independent MLA and the father of a Congress rebel and others over electoral offences related to the recent Rajya Sabha polls in which six party rebels voted for the BJP candidate.

Shimla, Mar 10 (PTI) Amid a political crisis in Himachal Pradesh, police on Sunday registered a case against an independent MLA and the father of a Congress rebel and others over 'electoral offences' related to the recent Rajya Sabha polls in which six party rebels voted for the BJP candidate.

The case against Hamirpur's independent MLA Ashish Sharma and Gagret's now disqualified MLA Chetanya Sharma's father and others was registered on the basis of a complaint lodged by Congress MLAs Sanjay Avasthi and Bhuvneshwar Gaur.

Ashish and Chetanya are among the six Congress rebels who along with three independents had voted in favour of BJP nominee Harsh Mahajan in the recently held Rajya Sabha polls.

This triggered a crisis in the state's Congress government, which appeared to have lost its majority in the assembly.

The complainants alleged the role of Chetanya's father Rakesh Sharma, a retired bureaucrat, in reportedly arranging the transportation for these MLAs.

A case of criminal conspiracy, corruption practices and undue influence on election has been registered on the complaint of the two Congress MLAs, police said on Sunday.

Adding a new dimension to the current political crisis in the state, Congress MLAs Avasthi and Gaur filed the complaint seeking investigation into 'electoral offences', bribery and criminal conspiracy in the whole sequence of events since the Rajya Sabha polls held on February 27.

They alleged 'horse trading and misuse of money to influence the elections'.

The latest development has evoked sharp reactions from the disqualified MLAs.

'With this attitude, the CM should be ready to face the consequences in future,' said Rajinder Rana, one of the six Congress rebels.

'If the CM thinks that he could win hearts by registering false complaints, he is mistaken. This kind of politics compelled the MLAs to vote in favour of the BJP,' Rana told PTI over phone.

Pressure tactics will not help, he said.

The two Congress legislators who filed the complaint sought investigation on charges of money trading, misuse of helicopter and security forces and criminal misconduct, and claimed direct evidence is available that the BJP is paying for the transportation through choppers and accommodation in five star properties in Haryana and Uttarakhand.

They said there is enough evidence of the BJP legislators accompanying the Congress rebels and independents, and cited the Supreme Court's recent ruling in Sita Soren vs Union of India case in the complaint.

Speaking to PTI, Chief Parliamentary Secretary Avasthi said such illegal activities are unknown to 'Devbhoomi' Himachal Pradesh and even the apex court has ruled that the elected representatives are not immune to criminal proceedings for accepting money and favours. 'We demand investigation in the whole sequence of events.' Confirming that a complaint was received from two Congress MLAs at Boileauganj police station, Shimla Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Kumar Gandhi told PTI that a case under sections 171C and 171E (undue influence on elections and bribery) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and sections 7 and 8 (public servant taking undue advantage) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, has been registered.

Investigations have been started in the case, Gandhi said.

The six Congress rebels namely Sudhir Sharma, Ravi Thakur, Rajinder Rana, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Chetanya Sharma and Devinder Kumar Bhutto who cross-voted in favour of the BJP were disqualified for defying a whip to be present in the House and vote in favour of the government during the cut motion and budget following which they moved the Supreme Court.

The three independents include Ashish Sharma, Hoshiyar Singh and K L Thakur.

Presently guarded by the Central Reserve Police Force, the nine and two BJP legislators are in Rishikesh in BJP-ruled Uttarakhand, alleging pressure from Himachal Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.

Terming the Congress government as the most unpopular and inexperienced till date, the rebels said that a lot of pressure is being put on them to return to the Congress fold.

In a joint statement issued here on Sunday, they said they are fighting a battle of self-respect and questioned the mindset of the chief minister, who is approaching them for compromise on one hand and issuing remarks like 'black snakes' and 'shepherds' on the other hand.

Sukhu had recently said that six 'black snakes' of the Congress sold their honour and tried to destabilise the state government and later compared them to 'shepherds' being moved from one place to another.

Earlier, Sudhir Sharma was removed from the post of secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) while Rajinder Rana resigned from the post of working president of the Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee.

Two of the three independent MLAs had earlier told PTI that pressure tactics of hitting businesses of independent MLAs and their families were a futile exercise and would not save the government.

Raids were conducted on crushers of the independent MLAs and their effigies were burnt, road leading to the house of Congress rebel from Lahaul and Spiti Ravi Thakur was closed after the nine cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha polls, the independent MLAs had alleged.

It is unfortunate that the chief minister has stooped to such a level, independent legislators K L Thakur and Hoshiyar Singh had said.

The chief minister should refrain from acting out of vengeance, they maintained. PTI BPL KVK KVK

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