Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday said he wanted the dissident Congress MLAs supporting former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot to attend the upcoming Assembly session, despite the recent political animosity between the two camps, the Hindustan Times reported.
“I still want those unhappy MLAs to attend the assembly session as they’ve been elected on Congress symbol,” Gehlot said. “It’s my responsibility to ensure that they are seen standing with the government in front of the public.”
This came a day after the deadlock over the convening of the Rajasthan Assembly session ended as Governor Kalraj Mishra accepted the Gehlot-led state government’s latest proposal to summon a session from August 14. This was the fourth proposal sent by the chief minister in the past week amid the political crisis.
“I’m happy that the Governor finally accepted my request to call the Assembly session sooner as any more delay could have resulted in further horse-trading,” Gehlot said, in an oblique reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Everyone knows horse-trading took place but that won’t affect us, we will complete our full term.”
The chief minister claimed that the “rates of horse-trading” in the state have increased after the decision to convene a session in the Assembly was announced, PTI reported. “Earlier, the first instalment was of Rs 10 crore and second was of Rs 15 crore,” he said. “Now it has become unlimited and all know who is doing horse-trading.”
The Congress has 107 MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly – including the six Bahujan Samaj Party turncoats – following Pilot’s revolt. The majority mark in the 200-member House is 101.
The merger of the BSP legislators is now being challenged in the High Court by party chief Mayawati. The BSP president had on Tuesday said that her party could have gone to the court earlier, but she was waiting for the right time to “teach the Congress and Ashok Gehlot a lesson” for the “theft of MLAs”.
However, Gehlot accused Mayawati of acting at the behest of the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Her complaining is not justified,” he added.
‘Will camp together till Assembly session’
Meanwhile, Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi said the party legislators will continue to camp together at the Fairmont hotel in Jaipur till the Rajasthan Assembly meets on August 14. The decision was made at a Congress Legislature Party meeting held at the hotel earlier in the day.
“All legislators will remain united and stay together till August 14,” Joshi said. “It will be decided where to stay.”
The rebel MLAs along with Pilot are also camping together at hotels in New Delhi and Gurugram, according to PTI.
The Congress government in Rajasthan has been on the brink of collapse ever since former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and proceeded with a few MLAs to Delhi earlier this month. Pilot was sacked as the Rajasthan deputy chief minister and as the Congress’ state unit chief on July 14. The next day, Assembly Speaker CP Joshi sent disqualification notices to Pilot and 18 other legislators.
The notices were served after the MLAs defied a whip to attend two Congress Legislature Party meetings to resolve the political crisis in the state. However, the MLAs said that a party whip applies only when the Assembly is in session.
In filings before the Rajasthan High Court, the legislators sought to quash the notices, arguing that they had neither given up their membership of the House nor did their failure to attend two Congress meetings make them liable for disqualification on the ground of defection. They added that elected representatives of the people cannot be removed from his post on the whims and fancies of their party’s leadership.
On July 24, Pilot and 18 other dissident MLAs got partial relief from the High Court, which ordered Joshi to maintain the status quo on the disqualification notices. The court order put the disqualification procedure on hold till the Supreme Court passed its verdict on the Speaker’s plea. However, Joshi withdrew his plea in the top court asking for intervention, minutes before the hearing was supposed to begin.
On July 29, he again moved the Supreme Court against the High Court’s decision to maintain status quo on the disqualification notices. The new petition stated that the High Court’s order was a “direct intrusion” into the domain exclusively reserved for the Speaker under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, otherwise known as the anti-defection law. It said the order was, therefore, “ex-facie unconstitutional”.