- Ashok Gehlot reached the Governor's House with around 100 Congress MLAs
- He urged Governor Kalraj Mishra to call an assembly session
- Scores of MLAs were seen sitting on the lawns of the Raj Bhawan
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot landed up at the Governor's House with at least 100 Congress MLAs this afternoon, escalating pressure on Governor Kalraj Mishra to call an assembly session and refusing to budge if he didn't.
Scores of MLAs were seen sitting on the lawns of the Raj Bhawan - observing physical distancing in the time of coronavirus - and shouting slogans as they waited for the Governor. Many of the MLAs milled around the house, looking determined for a stake-out until the situation went their way.
Ashok Gehlot said he had written to the Governor asking for an assembly session from Monday. He is keen to face a trust vote while he has the numbers.
"Rajyapal, house bulao, house bulao (Governor, call the assembly, call the assembly)," the MLAs shouted, in a series of slogans.
They also chanted - "Gehlot keep fighting, we are with you", "Down with tanashahi (dictatorship)" and "Justice is our mantra".
The Chief Minister reportedly told the slogan-shouting MLAs to "behave in the Gandhian way as a confrontation is not desirable".
The Governor sent biscuits and bottles of water for the lawmakers. Later, he came out and met his vistors. "The Supreme Court is hearing the matter. So I am taking legal opinion on your request," Mr Mishra told the Chief Minister and the MLAs.
Mr Gehlot said he would not leave unless an assembly session was announced. "I cannot say yes right now," the Governor repeated.
The protest was called off in the evening.
Mr Gehlot had told reporters this morning that he would take all his MLAs to make a collective appeal to the Governor.
"The entire state is with us. People are with us. If the masses surround the Raj Bhawan in protest, we will not be responsible," Mr Gehlot had told reporters.
The warning was seized by the BJP, which has been accused by the Chief Minister of backing his sacked deputy Sachin Pilot's revolt to dislodge the Congress from power in Rajasthan.
"Mr Gehlot is also Home Minister of the state. How can he make threats like that? Who will be responsible if the Raj Bhawan is surrounded by protesters," said Satish Pooniya, Rajasthan BJP chief.
"Clearly, Mr Gehlot has lost his mental balance for the fear of losing power," said the BJP leader.
The Chief Minister reportedly has the support of 103 MLAs, two more than the majority mark in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly.
As of now, the rebel camp of Sachin Pilot seems to have 19 MLAs. With 72 BJP MLAs, smaller parties and three independents, the anti-Gehlot votes are at 97.
Confident that a test of strength held now will only benefit the Congress government, Mr Gehlot has been pressing for an assembly session at the earliest.
Since yesterday, he has met with Governor Kalraj Mishra, written a letter requesting a session and even spoken to him on the phone. "We waited all night, but there was no response. It is beyond comprehension what kind of pressure would compel him to delay such a simple process," Mr Gehlot said, alleging a BJP role.
As reports suggested the Governor may cite coronavirus as the reason why a session cannot be held now, Rajasthan Health Minister Raghu Sharma said: "If that is the case, we are ready to take covid tests."