- Governor not convening Assembly, "pressure from above": Ashok Gehlot
- Mr Gehlot said he had even requested an assembly session from Monday
- The Governor told NDTV that he had not said "no" to Mr Gehlot's request
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday demanded an assembly session "as soon as possible" and protested for more than four hours at Governor Kalraj Mishra's house, accusing him of sitting on the request because he was "under pressure" to stall a test of strength. The Chief Minister submitted a list of 102 MLAs to the Governor, who asked him to send a fresh request for a session.
"We requested him to call a session in a letter yesterday and we waited all night, but there was no response," the Chief Minister said, alleging a BJP role in the Governor's stance.
"We are ready to prove our majority. The opposition (BJP) should welcome it, but here it is ulti-ganga (opposite)".
An almost day-long sit-in by the Chief Minister ended around 7.40 PM.
There were unprecedented scenes at the Governor's House, Raj Bhavan, where the Chief Minister and around 100 Congress MLAs sat on protest and refused to budge until he made an announcement. "Call a session now...We want justice..," the MLAs chanted, sitting in the lawns.
The Governor came out and told the Chief Minister that he was getting legal opinion since the Supreme Court is hearing the case.
The Chief Minister said he would not leave until the assembly session was announced. "I cannot say yes right now," Kalraj Mishra repeated to him.
The Governor, in a statement, said the "purpose of calling the session has not been given and no agenda has been proposed" in the four-line proposal. "Normally, a 21-day notice is needed," the statement added. A new proposal is likely to be sent to him on Saturday morning. "The Governor assured us that he would follow the constitution," said Raghu Sharma, state Health Minister.
The Governor told NDTV that he had not said "no" to Mr Gehlot's request. "I have not decided yet. Whatever I do will be according to the rules," Kalraj Mishra said amid reports that he may even cite coronavirus restrictions to hold off on a session.
Raghu Sharma said: "If that is the case, we are ready to take Covid tests."
Mr Gehlot said he had even phoned the Governor last evening, besides writing to him. "I told him you must follow your conscience and preserve the decorum of your constitutional post. The people of Rajasthan are with us. If the masses surround the Raj Bhawan in protest, we will not be responsible," said the Chief Minister.
Mr Gehlot, 69, is going all out for a test of strength after Sachin Pilot and other Congress rebels threatening his government scored a reprieve from the Rajasthan High Court yesterday. There can be no action for now on disqualification notices sent to the rebels last week, the court said. This means the Speaker cannot take any action against the rebels until the larger constitutional question of his powers is decided. That question will be taken up by the Supreme Court on Monday.
Mr Gehlot believes he has the numbers to retain power if he faces a trust vote now. If he does win, there cannot be any vote for the next six months.
The rules say the rebels must follow the party whip in the assembly or risk being disqualified. Despite the court-ordered status quo, the rebels can be disqualified if they vote against their own party. But their vote will still count.
The Chief Minister said he expected some of the dissident MLAs to return to the fold. "The rebels have been calling us for help. They want to be freed. They are being guarded by bouncers and the police, their phones have been seized," Mr Gehlot claimed. That claim was denied by Murali Lal Meena, one of the rebel MLAs currently in Delhi with Mr Pilot.
The Congress has a narrow lead over the opposition and is only one past the majority mark of 101 in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly. Team Pilot claims the support of 30 MLAs, but so far, the evidence points to only 19. The BJP has 72. Including smaller parties and independent members, the opposition has 97 at the moment.
If Team Pilot is disqualified, it will help the Chief Minister by bringing the majority mark down. But if they win the case to vote as Congress MLAs, they can endanger the government.
In a separate development that could affect Mr Gehlot's tally, a BJP MLA has petitioned the High Court against the merger of a group of six MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with the Congress. The BSP MLAs had joined the Congress last year, pushing up its overall tally.