All 67 legislators of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Leader of the Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal and Speaker Brij Bihari Lal Butail exercised their franchise in the presidential polls on Monday. The State has a 68-member Assembly but one seat is vacant following the death of Congress MLA Karan Singh.Independent membersSecretary of State Vidhan Sabha Sunder Lal Verma said that 35 Congress MLAs, 28 Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs and four Independent MLAs voted in the polls. Both the BJP and the Congress have claimed support of two Independent members each.Unicameral HouseIn the Unicameral House of the State, each MLA vote has a value of 51 votes and the State has four seats in the Lok Sabha — all occupied by the BJP. It also has three Rajya Sabha seats, one occupied by the BJP and the other two by the Congress. The Congress has a minor edge in the polls if no cross voting takes place.BJP meets GovernorRight after casting their votes, a delegation of the BJP met Governor Acharya Devvrat. Memo submittedThey submitted a memo urging him to dismiss the Virbhadra Singh-led government due to the “worsening law and order situation” in the State. Independent MLAs Balbir Verma and Manohar Dhiman, who recently joined the BJP, were part of the delegation.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Thursday took the custody of five accused arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in connection with the escape of Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist Mohammed Naveed Jhatt from the SMHS hospital, an official spokesman said here. The NIA spokesman said the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate here granted a two-day transit remand of the five accused who had been nabbed by the police on February 8, two days after the escape of 22-year-old Jhatt alias Abu Hanzalla from the busy hospital in the city. The five accused — Shakeel Ahmed Bhat, Tika Khan, Syed Tajamul Islam, Mohammed Shafi Wani and Jan Mohammed Ganai — were arrested by the police for allegedly conspiring in the escape of Jhatt. All the five accused are residents of Pulwama. The NIA re-registered the case pertaining to the escape from custody of Jhatt from the SMHS hospital where he was brought in for treatment on February 6. The accused will be produced before the NIA special court at Jammu tomorrow for seeking police custody, the spokesman said. The designated court for the NIA is in Jammu, the winter capital of the state. Two policemen — head constable Mushtaq Ahmed and constable Babar Ahmed — of the Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed by Jhatt and his accomplice on the fateful day. Bhat is believed to be one of the masterminds of the escape of Jhatt and his motorcycle had been used in the escape of the terrorist, police said. Khan, a resident of Pulwama, is alleged to have provided his car for further transportation of Jhatt out of the city, police said. Jhatt is at present believed to be in the Pulwama area of South Kashmir, they said. Shafi, who is from Narbal on the outskirts of Srinagar city, had posed as a patient to provide cover for the terrorists escape. Jhatt had managed to escape on February 6 after at least two other militants attacked the police escort team at the SMHS Hospital here, killing two cops.