A petition filed by a BJP MLA requesting a freeze on the merger of six former Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs with the Congress -- crucial for the Ashok Gehlot Government in Rajasthan -- will be taken up by the Supreme Court tomorrow. The MLA had approached the top court, urging that the matter, currently before a single judge of the Rajasthan High Court, be heard urgently in view of the beginning of the assembly session this week.
BJP MLA Madan Dilawar has challenged the order of a division bench of Rajasthan High Court, which refused to stay the merger and asked the single judge hearing the case to take a call on the matter on August 11.
Mr Dilawar has asked the Supreme Court for a freeze on the merger and asked the court to restrain the six MLAs from voting in the Rajasthan assembly when it begins on August 14.
Representing the BJP MLA, senior advocate Harish Salve argued that since the BSP MLAs have sought a transfer of the case to the Supreme Court, the court can hear the BJP petition alongside.
"The disqualification issue is pending before the single judge. Those six MLAs have now approached Supreme Court in a transfer petition. But that petition has not been listed yet. The assembly session starts on 14 August. The matter should be heard," Mr Salve argued.
A three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, who were hearing the matter through video conference, agreed to hear both petitions together tomorrow.
A decision on the merger will have implications for the Ashok Gehlot government, which is struggling to hold on to its majority in face of the rebellion by Sachin Pilot and his 18 loyalist MLAs.
Mr Gehlot insists that he has the support of 102 MLAs, one above the majority mark.
If there is a stay on the merger and the six MLAs are not allowed to vote in the assembly, Mr Gehlot will have a tough fight on his hands in the event of a trust vote. The majority mark in the 200-member assembly will slide from 101 to 97, and Mr Gehlot will have the support of 96 MLAs. The BJP has 72 MLAs. With the rebel camp and three independents MLAs, the numbers of the other side will touch 97.
In September 2019, Rajasthan assembly speaker CP Joshi had approved the merger a day after the six joined the Congress. In February, the BJP, which lost the state election, sought their disqualification, which was rejected the Speaker.
After the rebellion of Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs, BSP chief Mayawati, who had been livid with the defection and biding her time, said she wants to "teach the Ashok Gehlot government a lesson".