Bharatiya Tribal Party hands over their letter of support to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot (ANI photo)
JAIPUR: Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot met governor Kalraj Mishra on Saturday evening to submit a list of MLAs supporting him, raising the possibility of a brief assembly session next week for the government to seek a trust vote against the backdrop of the revolt by sacked deputy CM Sachin Pilot and 18 other legislators.
The meeting at Raj Bhavan lasted 45 minutes, during which Gehlot is understood to have proposed convening an assembly session by Wednesday. Congress insiders wouldn’t give numbers, but said the CM was confident of winning the trial of strength. “The assembly session will pave the way for stern action against Pilot and his band of rebel MLAs,” a senior party office-bearer said.
Parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal confirmed to TOI that Gehlot submitted a list of MLAs to the governor and that the figure was well above the majority mark of 101 in the 200-member assembly. Congress has 107 MLAs, 19 of whom constitute the rival Pilot camp.
On whether Gehlot himself requested an assembly session to prove his government’s majority, Dhariwal said, “The CM meeting the governor does not mean it is for an assembly session.”
The minister, however, didn’t contest the buzz that a floor test is just a few days away. “If the government clears the trust vote now, the law does not permit another one for six months,” he said.
Sources said the Gehlot government was more than eager to get a floor test out of the way because proving its majority would help it counter the Pilot camp’s plea in the Rajasthan high court that a party whip is not binding on MLAs when the House isn’t in session. Speaker CP Joshi had issued defection notices to Pilot and 18 of his supporters on the basis of a complaint that they had defied a party whip and skipped consecutive CLP meetings.
If an assembly session is called in the next few days, Pilot and the MLAs supporting him would have to return to Jaipur or face disqualification under the anti-defection law for defying a fresh party whip, sources said.
New PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasra said the party was sure to get support from at least a couple of the MLAs being “held” in a resort in Haryana’s Manesar.
Ailing social justice minister Bhanwar Lal Meghwal has been in hospital since May 13 and is, therefore, unlikely to participate in a floor test should the governor ask for one. Congress will then be left with 87 MLAs on Gehlot’s side.
Meanwhile, the Gehlot government got a fillip when the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), which has two MLAs, returned to its fold. The Gujarat-based party had been previously supporting the state government, but chose to stay neutral when the political crisis triggered by Pilot’s revolt intensified last week.
Besides the two BTP MLAs, Congress has the support of one RLD legislator in Subhash Garg, who is the minister of state for health. The two CPM MLAs in the House had been supporting the government prior to the crisis. “Our party has not taken any stand so far on supporting the Congress government if there is a floor test, but we will not support BJP and those helping it,” CPM state secretary Amra Ram told TOI on Saturday.
The support of independent legislators would be crucial for the government to survive. Of the 13 independent MLAs who were with the Congress prior to the crisis, three were in Manesar until they were whisked away to an undisclosed location when an SOG team reached there on Friday evening. Congress has been claiming the support of the remaining 10 independent MLAs who are currently corralled with its MLAs in a hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur.