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The three Independent legislators who had resigned from the assembly last week were on Wednesday issued a show cause notice by the assembly speaker, officials said.

Himachal assembly speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania (HT File)

They have to reply to the notice by April 10, they said.

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The three Independents, Ashish Sharma (Hamirpur), Hoshiyar Singh ( Dehra) and KL Thakur (Nalagarh), had put in their resignation from the assembly on March 22 and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP) a day later in New Delhi. Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania has directed them to file replies by April 10 and would ascertain whether they had resigned voluntarily or “under duress”. The assembly would record their statements to follow necessary procedure.

Confirming that the notice has been issued to Independent MLAs, Vidhan Sabha secretary Yashpal Sharma told news agency PTI that Congress legislative party has submitted that the three MLAs “resigned under duress”, not voluntarily”. “We have sought explanation from them in this regard,” he said.

“It’s just a tactic to delay the bypolls in three assembly segments. Congress has sensed its defeat in the elections. Otherwise, there is no reason for delaying the elections,” said Ashish Sharma.

Speaker Kuldeep Singh Pathania had maintained that the Independent MLAs have submitted their resignation but they have not cited their reasons.

Congress legislators and chief minister Sukhvinder Singh have been vocal against the nine MLAs and have accused the BJP of pressurising the legislators.

Congress MLAs Sanjay Avasthi and Bhuvneshwar Gaur have also registered a case of electoral offences, bribery and criminal conspiracy against Hamirpur independent MLA Ashish Sharma and Rakesh Sharma, father of Gagret MLA Chaitanya Sharma, who is among the six former Congress leaders.

The case against them was registered under sections 171C and 171E (undue influence on elections and bribery) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and sections 7 and 8 (public servant taking undue advantage) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, police had said.

All the three Independents had sought BJP tickets during the 2022 assembly polls but they were denied tickets and contested as Independents.

Later when the Congress formed the government with 40 legislators, the three Independents had supported the government. However, three Independent MLAs, along with six Congress rebels voted in favour of the BJP candidate in the Rajya Sabha elections last month.

The rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified for defying a whip to be present in the House and vote in favour of the ruling Congress during cut motions and budget. They also joined the BJP and were given assembly tickets from their respective assembly seats.

With the disqualification of six Congress MLAs, the strength of the ruling Congress came down from 40 to 34, including the speaker, in the curtailed 62-member assembly. The BJP has 25 legislators.

With PTI inputs

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