Dehra Dun: The Congress won the first trial of strength in the Uttarakhand Assembly on Monday when its candidate, Govind Singh Kunjwal, was elected Speaker by a comfortable margin of votes after the faction led by Harish Rawat backed Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.

A staunch Rawat loyalist, Kunjwal, 67, who scored a hat-trick in the recent state elections, defeated BJP's Harbans Kapoor by 8 votes.

He got 39 votes and Kapoor bagged 31 votes in the 70-member Assembly, Speaker Shailendra Mohan Singhal informed the House.

All the three independents, Pritam Singh Panwar, the lone member of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and three members of the BSP voted in favour of Kunjwal.

His victory looked certain as the Congress which has a strength of 32, had mustered the support of the seven non-BJP MLAs.

Kunjwal, an MLA from Jageshwar in Almora district, pledged to maintain the sanctity of the House and said he would function without any bias.

"I assure you that I will treat all the members equally and maintain the sanctity of the House," said the former horticulture minister in the N D Tiwari government during 2002-07.

Governor Margaret Alva is scheduled to address the new House tomorrow and the vote on the motion of thanks for her address is likely to take place the next day.

"We have won our first major test through the successful election of the speaker. Now there is no need to bring a separate trust vote," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Indira Hridayesh said. Hridayesh said the government is bringing a vote on account, which is a money bill, on March 29, the passage of which should also be seen as a trust vote.

Moreover, there is Rajya Sabha election on March 30 where the victory of Congress candidate Mahendra Singh Mahra looks certain now, she said adding this will also be a proof of the majority of the new Congress government.

In addition to this, Hridayesh said Governor Margaret Alva is also satisfied with the numbers of the ruling party in the House. "The governor has also not asked us to prove majority in the House," she said.

However, the Congress sources said in case BJP wants to bring a separate no confidence vote, it was free to do that.

Earlier in the day, Bahuguna made a strong plea to the opposition BJP to withdraw the candidate for the Speaker's post in line with the highest traditions of the democracy.

However, the BJP remained adamant and pressed for a vote.

Congratulating the Speaker, Bahuguna hoped that he would maintain the highest standards of democracy. "I am sure that you will earn confidence of both the ruling and opposition benches," Bahuguna said.

(Agencies)