Rajasthan political crisis | After HC order, Gehlot stages dharna for Assembly session

For a hearing: Congress MLAs supporting Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot protesting at the Raj Bhavan in Jaipur on July 24, 2020.   | Photo Credit: PTI

After the Rajasthan High Court ordered status quo to be maintained in the disqualification proceedings against rebel leader Sachin Pilot and dissident MLAs, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot along with his supporting legislators staged a “dharna” on the lawns of Raj Bhawan here on Friday with the demand for the Governor’s approval for convening a session of the State Assembly.

We want an Assembly session from Monday. The [State] Cabinet has taken a decision on this,” Mr. Gehlot told journalists outside the Raj Bhawan, while accusing Governor Kalraj Mishra of not giving the go-ahead “under some pressure from above”. He said he wanted to go to the floor of the House and prove his majority.

Also read: Relief to Sachin Pilot, 18 MLAs as High Court orders status quo on disqualification notices

Unprecedented scenes of the MLAs raising slogans supporting Mr. Gehlot and demanding the Assembly session be held were witnessed in Raj Bhawan after members of the Gehlot camp arrived in four buses from a luxury hotel in the outskirts of the city, where they had been sequestered for several days. The legislators raised the slogans: “Call a session now” and “We want justice”.

The dharna ended after about five hours with a decision taken for holding a Cabinet meeting late in the night. Health Minister Raghu Sharma said a list of 102 MLAs was submitted to the Governor with the claim of a clear majority in the 200-member Assembly and with the plea that a floor test in the House was even suggested during the recent court hearings on the Speaker’s disqualification notices.

Also read: Analysis | Does Ashok Gehlot’s outburst against Sachin Pilot deliver a message to Congress’ central leadership?

Before heading for Raj Bhawan, Mr. Gehlot addressed a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting at the hotel and said that if the Assembly session was not called and people from the entire State laid siege to Raj Bhawan, the government “would not be responsible”. The Governor, as the Constitutional head of the State, was bound by the Cabinet’s decision on convening a session, he added.

Amid the show of strength by the agitating MLAs, Mr. Mishra came out to meet them and assured them of taking an early decision. According to sources in the Raj Bhawan, the Governor, who had earlier sought a legal opinion on whether an Assembly session could be allowed when the Supreme Court was seized of the disqualification matter, would consider a fresh proposal to be sent by the Cabinet after its meeting.

Also read: Rajasthan political crisis | Re-entry of rebels on merit, says Congress

The Cabinet’s earlier proposal, received on Thursday, was not very clear and had not mentioned the agenda for the session, said the sources.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Singh Dotasra said party workers would stage demonstrations at all district headquarters on Saturday against the BJP’s “conspiracy” to bring down the Ashok Gehlot government. “While the people want the elected government to complete its term, some invisible powers sitting in Delhi are trying to influence the Governor,” he said.

Also read: Rajasthan political crisis | Ready for floor test, says Ashok Gehlot

Earlier in the day, the 19 dissident Congress MLAs of the Pilot camp got partial relief from the High Court, which ordered maintenance of status quo on the disqualification notices issued by Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi to them. The court order has essentially put the disqualification procedure on hold.

No action will be taken against the legislators until the Supreme Court resumes the hearing on the Speaker’s special leave petition on July 27. A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta passed the interim order after agreeing to a request by the Pilot camp to make the Union government a party to the writ petition challenging the notices.

The court had earlier asked the Speaker to wait for its verdict before taking any action on his notices. The court admitted the petition, while framing 12 legal questions to be examined, and said it would hear arguments on the prayers to quash the show cause notices and declare the anti-defection law under the Tenth Schedule unconstitutional.

The notices were issued to the MLAs on a plea made by Congress Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi, who said that Mr. Pilot and his supporters did not attend CLP meetings despite the whip issued. The Pilot camp contended that a party whip applied only when the Assembly was in session.

The Supreme Court had on Thursday refused to intervene in the matter pending in the High Court and allowed the Division Bench to pass orders on the petition. However, the apex court had stated that orders would be subject to the outcome of the petition moved before it.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2021 6:11:30 AM |

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