By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-27 17:50:27
The political and legal drama in Rajasthan is becoming murkier by the day. There are new angles added every day with the Governor and the Chief Minister trying to outdo each other in political maneuvering. After Governor Kalraj Mishra rejected the Rajasthan cabinet's first advice to call a session of the assembly citing, in the main, three reasons - missing date, missing agenda and two court cases, Gehlot moved quickly to rectify that. He provided a date and said that the agenda was to discuss the Covid situation and the economy. The Speaker withdrew his plea against the Sachin Pilot camp in the Supreme Court. Hence, the three main objections of the Governor were satisfactorily dealt with. Or so the Congress thought.
But they had not bargained with the wiles of Kalraj Mishra. The Governor sent another letter to the Chief Minister, which, though not saying that he will not call the assembly session as requested, asked the government whether it would consider giving a 21-day notice due to the Covid situation as the MLAs would need time to gather in Jaipur. He also pointedly asked Gehlot about the floor test, saying that while it was not mentioned in the agenda but Gehlot has been talking about it in public and before the media. Lastly, the Governor also asked what steps would the government take to ensure social distancing norms would be strictly followed during the session. But interestingly, he has advised the state government to initiate steps to convene the session.
It is obvious that the Governor is playing for time. As per the constitution and several decisions by the Supreme Court, he is bound to follow the advice of the state cabinet. The 21-day notice he speaks of is the stated norm. But it is not mandatory and the state cabinet has the right to ask for an assembly session to be convened at shorter notice or even urgently. Thus, the Governor's insistence on a 21-day notice is strange. Also, he has been given the agenda. It is not fair on his part to demand to know whether the government will hold a floor test during the session. That is for the government to decide in the assembly. The Governor should issue the summons to the MLAs for the assembly session as early as feasible.
In another development, a miffed Mayawati has joined the battle by not recognizing the act of 6 Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators in Rajasthan of merging the state unit with the Congress. They had done so to escape the provisions of the anti-defection law. Mayawati said that since the BSP was a national party with a presence in many states, any such decision needs the clearance of the national executive. The BSP has issued a whip to the 6 legislators to vote against the Congress. But if a floor test is held and they vote for the Congress, their vote will count although they will stand disqualified thereafter. Hence, the fear of disqualification might make them vote against the Congress. This has queered the pitch further for Gehlot as he claims the support of only 103 MLAs. If the BSP MLAs vote against him, it will go down to 97, which is well below the majority mark of 101 in the 200-member house.
As things stand now, it is not clear whether the Congress will gain by abandoning the legal route and going all out for the political one. The picture that is emerging from various sources is that while a few from the Pilot camp may switch loyalties once they are in Jaipur, there are also chances that if the Governor succeeds in delaying the assembly session by a week or ten days, the rebels may be able to get a few Congress MLAs to switch sides. Then there is the question of which way will the BSP MLAs vote. For all his maneuverings in the last two weeks and the impression that he had successfully warded off the coup attempt, Gehlot is on unsure ground. It is also clear that he will be spending sleepless nights for the next few days.