- The Chief Minister has been guarding his flock rigorously
- Ashok Gehlot claims the support of 102 MLAs
- Keen on proving his majority, he wanted assembly session from today
Nearly 100 Rajasthan Congress MLAs staying at a hotel near Jaipur since Sachin Pilot launched his revolt three weeks ago, were flown to Jaisalmer by a special flight a day after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that the "rates" for buying MLAs were soaring.
The MLAs - Ashok Gehlot claims the support of 102 - will stay at a luxury resort in the border city of Jaisalmer till August 14, when the Rajasthan assembly session begins.
Why is the Chief Minister scared, the BJP sneered.
"Ahead of Jaisalmer is Pakistan. And on its other side is Gujarat (a BJP-ruled state). So where do you want to go? The CM should let his MLAs free," remarked Satish Poonia, the BJP chief in Rajasthan.
The Chief Minister is reportedly prepping to face a trust vote in the session, which was called after Governor Kalraj Mishra rejected multiple proposals. Neither Ashok Gehlot nor the Congress has officially suggested a test of strength, even though it is central to their strategy to tackle the rebels who are threatening the government's survival.
Yesterday, the Chief Minister doubled down on his allegations that Sachin Pilot's rebel camp is collaborating with the BJP to bribe MLAs to cross over. "After the assembly session was announced last night, the rates of horse trading have increased. Earlier, the first instalment was of Rs 10 crore and second was of Rs 15 crore. Now it has become unlimited and all know who is doing horse-trading," Mr Gehlot told reporters.
Mr Gehlot, keen on proving his majority, wanted a session from today, but finally agreed to the Governor's condition of 21-day notice.
As the Governor cleared his fourth proposal, Mr Gehlot said he was confident of his majority and could prove it anytime, be it after "21 days or 31 days".
The Chief Minister, who has been guarding his flock rigorously, believes that he can win a trust vote at this time. He has a narrow lead - one over the majority mark of 101 in the 200-member assembly.
The rebels contest that and insist that at least 30 MLAs are on their side. So far, only 19, including Sachin Pilot, have made it official.
A court case on six former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs who merged into the Congress may impact Mr Gehlot's tally. The Rajasthan High Court yesterday served notices to them on petitions by the BSP and BJP challenging the merger.
MLAs on Team Pilot yesterday said they would attend the session. "Of course, we will attend," a rebel MLAs told NDTV.
If the rebels do not attend the session, they will stand disqualified for defying a party whip. They are currently fighting Speaker CP Joshi's moves to disqualify them based on a Congress complaint accusing them of anti-party activity.
If they attend house and vote against the Congress government, Mr Gehlot could be in huge trouble. The rebels will be disqualified for defying their party whip, but the government will fall if a majority of the house votes against the government, according to the rules.