Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi on Wednesday issued notices to 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including sacked Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, after the party moved to initiate disqualification proceedings against them, NDTV reported.
The Speaker has sought a response by Friday. If they are disqualified, it would help the Ashok Gehlot government as it would bring down the majority mark during a floor test, demands for which have been raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Pilot’s rebellion in Rajasthan has brought the Gehlot administration to the brink of a collapse. Earlier on Tuesday, Pilot was removed as the deputy chief minister of Rajasthan and from his position as the Congress’ state unit chief. Fifty-nine Congress office-bearers in Rajasthan’s Tonk city resigned in protest against Pilot’s removal.
The action against Pilot came after he did not attend the second round of meetings convened by the Congress to discuss the political crisis. Several Congress leaders had reached out to Pilot since Sunday in an attempt to resolve his feud with Gehlot.
The power struggle between Gehlot and Pilot had been going on for quite some time, but the latest crisis was triggered after Pilot was summoned by the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad and the Special Operations Group last week. The SOG had sought time from Pilot to record his statement in a case of conspiracy and sedition registered after attempts were allegedly made by the BJP to bribe Congress MLAs to switch sides during last month’s Rajya Sabha elections. However, Gehlot had pointed out that the notice was misinterpreted, adding that a similar notice was sent to him as well.
The Congress accused the BJP of attempting to destabilise the Rajasthan government by bribing its MLAs, and said such efforts would not be fruitful as the Gehlot administration will complete its term.
There has been some speculation that Pilot is in talks with the BJP in Delhi and may stage a walkout like Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh to topple the Gehlot-led government in Rajasthan. Pilot has denied these claims. On Tuesday, however, he took to Twitter to send out a message to the Congress. “The Truth can be disturbed, not defeated,” he wrote.
The Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh collapsed in March after 22 MLAs, considered close to former party leader Scindia, resigned. They later joined the BJP. Scindia joined the saffron party on March 11 and was named the BJP’s Rajya Sabha candidate from Madhya Pradesh.
The Rajasthan Assembly
While Pilot claims he has 30 MLAs on his side, the Congress says the number is no more than 16. On Monday, Pilot insisted that Gehlot’s claim of having 106 legislators on his side was a gross exaggeration.
Before the crisis erupted, the Congress had the backing of 125 MLAs in the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, including 107 of its own lawmakers. As many as 13 Independents and five MLAs from other parties – one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal, two MLAs from the Bharatiya Tribal Party and two more from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – support it.
The majority mark in the Rajasthan Assembly is 101. The BJP has 72 legislators and has the support of three Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MLAs.