Twist in Rajasthan: Issuing whip against Congress, BSP emerges Gehlot’s latest headache

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In a surprising turn of events in the ongoing Rajasthan political drama, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) issued a whip to its six MLAs (who had controversially ‘merged’ with the Congress) to vote against the Ashok Gehlot administration in case of a trust motion in the assembly. If the whip holds, Gehlot could find itself in a serious quagmire when it comes to raking up the required numbers to survive a floor test. 

Sandeep Yadav, Wajib Ali, Deepchand Kheria, Lakhan Meena, Jogendra Awana and Rajendra Gudha won the 2018 assembly elections on BSP tickets.The speaker had then passed an order declaring that the six MLAs be treated as an “integral part” of the Congress. For the Gehlot-led government, the merger meant that the Congress tally increased to 107 in a house of 200.

In a statement, BSP announced that the state-level merger won’t stand as nothing of the sort has happened at the national level. BSP General Secretary Satish Chandra Misra said: “All six MLAs have been issued separate notices wherein they have been informed that since BSP is a recognised national party as such there cannot be any merger under para (4) of the 10th Schedule at the state level at the instance of six MLAs unless there is a merger of the entire BSP everywhere at the national level.”

If the six MLAs voted against the party whip, they were liable for disqualification from the assembly, Mishra said. He also said the BSP would intervene in the pending petition of disqualification before the Rajasthan High Court or file a separate writ petition.

Interestingly, the notice comes days after a BJP MLA filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court, seeking quashing the BSP-Congress merger. MLA Madan Dilawar’s plea will be heard by a single bench in the Rajasthan High Court today. “As per the 10th Schedule of the Constitution, I had filed a petition before the assembly speaker on March 16 [for disqualification of the BSP MLAs] and gave a reminder on July 17 for quick decision [on it], but no action was taken,” Dilawar said in a statement. Dilawar said he was surprised that the speaker cancelled his petition without a hearing, and without even giving any notice to the BSP legislators.

How will this affect Gehlot?

Gehlot has been assuring the public that, even if the rebel MLAs voted against the Congress, his government had the numbers to survive any floor test. However, if the BSP whip stands, this could seriously jeopardise Gehlot’s stand. Subtract the six BSP MLAs . There are 13 independents (at least 10 of whom are pro-Gehlot), and five legislators from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), the CPI(M) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD). 

If the disqualification of 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including Sachin Pilot, does not stand, and they vote against the Congress in the assembly, the grand old party would find itself faced with the unenviable prospect of having to bank everything on the support of the independents and the other smaller parties. 

What next?

Speed is of the absolute essence for Gehlot. The more the floor test is delayed, the more difficult it will be for him to keep his flock together. On Sunday, the Gehlot-led cabinet has sent the governor a revised proposal for an assembly session on July 31. Today, the Supreme Court also hears the case of the embattled Congress-led government, against a high court verdict delaying Pilot’s disqualification procedure. 

As Congress leaders in the state and outside spoke in unison to support Gehlot and lash out against the Centre and the BJP, the chief minister also held a separate review meeting to discuss the coronavirus crisis. Discussion on the pandemic and the economy are listed as part of the agenda for the assembly session in the Gehlot-led cabinet’s revised proposal sent late Saturday night.

The government, fighting for survival after Gehlot’s now sacked deputy Sachin Pilot staged a rebellion with 18 other MLAs following a bitter and prolonged feud, has been pushing the governor for an opportunity to prove its numbers on the floor of the house. However, it is not immediately clear whether a floor test is part of the proposal. Gehlot said in a late evening tweet that the opposition is usually the one making the demand and the ruling party is reluctant. “… here we are demanding but there is no reply.”

“I hope the governor is also a seasoned politician, amiable, tactful and the post he is holding has great dignity. It is a constitutional post … He will order us soon, we will call the assembly,” he added.

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