Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is likely to call an assembly session next week to conduct a floor test and prove the government's majority in the House. His camp claims he has at least 103 MLAs loyal to him – 88 from the Congress, 2 from the BTP and CPM each, 1 from RLD and 10 independents. The political crisis in the state continues as Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi told the Supreme Court during the hearing of his petition that the state high court had no jurisdiction to restrain him from conducting disqualification proceedings till July 24 against 19 dissident Congress MLAs, including sacked deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.
Amid the ongoing political crisis in Rajasthan following the rebellion by his now sacked deputy Sachin Pilot and his loyal MLAs, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday asserted that he enjoys a full majority in the Assembly.
Addressing the media here, he said: “We have a majority and will call a session soon as the Congress MLAs are standing together.”
On the Pilot camp going to court, he said, “Those who went to court have committed a mistake. The court case has no relation to anti-defection law. It is connected to the fact that we called two CLP (Congress Legislature Party) meetings so that those who had gone can come back, but they did not come.
“It seemed that they had intentions of parting ways. Our Chief Whip filed a petition in this regard. In fact, a Speaker can issue notice, call them and talk to them. The debate hovers around this subject and has no relation with the anti-defection act.”
Gehlot also claimed that the rebel MLAs have been held hostage.
“Those who have been held hostage, and are under (the eye of) bouncers… we hope that when they come back, they will vote with us. We have a full majority even without them. On the same basis, we will go to the house and prove our majority.”
He also slammed the raids being conducted by the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax Department, including on his elder brother’s office and farm house in Rajasthan.
“The way raids have been started by the ED, the CBI, the IT etc under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rule on directions of (Home Minister) Amit Shah, will not stop us from exposing the BJP’s ideology.”
“Earlier, we came to know about raids after they were being conducted. However, now, we start getting news three-four days ahead that raids will be conducted,” he quipped.
Gehlot also termed the BJP a “fascist party”, which is “engaged in killing democracy”. “It is only the Congress party which can fight its ideology.”
“During the time of corona, the BJP is trying to topple our government,” he said, adding that the “nation will never forgive them for this act”.
As the counsels of rebel Congress MLAs in Rajasthan and the Assembly Speaker slug it out in the Supreme Court, two words became a bone of contention during the course of the hearing.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Joshi, that the High Court had only requested the Speaker to wait till July 24.
Sibal replied, “Suspend the word ‘direction’ from the order, as the court can’t do this.”
Justice Mishra said so the problem is only with the two words, as the High Court order everywhere says ‘request’.” The apex court noted that the matter may require lengthy hearing. Sibal contended that the apex court could have prolonged hearing but the interim direction to the Speaker should be removed. “My lords have never passed an interim order like this”, submitted Sibal before the bench.
Sibal was referring to the Rajasthan High Court order which said “In view of above directions, we therefore, further request the Speaker, who has been pleased to extend the period for filing reply by the writ petitioners till 5.30 p.m. as of today i.e. 21.07.2020, to extend the said period till the delivery of orders by this Court on 24/07/2020 and we direct accordingly. The matter shall be listed on 24.07.2020. The parties are directed to act accordingly.”
The Speaker, in his plea, has contended that this order is in the teeth of the dictum of the Constitution bench of the apex court in Kihoto Hollohan vs Zachillhu, and the mandate of the mandate of Para 6(2) of the Tenth Schedule read with Article 212 of the Constitution. “In Kihoto, a Constitution bench of this court expressly held that courts cannot interdict the Speaker from proceeding ahead at the quia timet stage”, argued the plea.
The bench queried Sibal on the grounds on which disqualification of the MLAs was sought.
Sibal replied that the MLAs didn’t attend the party meet, instead they were indulging in activities against the interest of their own party. Sibal also cited the apex court verdict in the Manipur crisis. “Justice Nariman’s judgment in Manipur is in my favour. It asked the Speaker to decide the matter, not defer the decision,” he argued.
The bench queried Sibal that could the Speaker be an aggrieved person. He replied that the Speaker has moved the top court because he has been asked not to decide the matter, which is against the Constitution bench.
The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to accede to Rajasthan Assembly Speaker’s request to stay the Rajasthan High Court proceedings on Sachin Pilot and MLAs’ petition against disqualification notice.
The apex court also allowed the High Court to pass an order on the matter on Friday, but said that it will be subjected to the outcome of the proceedings in the top court.
A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Krishna Murari took up the matter through video conferencing.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Sachin Pilot, contended before the bench that there is no need to stay, as the Speaker have taken a chance in the High Court and he cannot ask for a stay now.
The bench replied, but that is what we need to examine.
Sibal replied then the apex court should transfer the High Court petition here. The bench said: “not now”.
Sibal asked the top court for an order to stay any further proceedings before the High Court.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, also representing Pilot, questioned the political overtones of the Speaker. “If Speaker can himself agree to defer twice, why can’t he wait for another 24 hours?” Rohatgi argued.
The apex court observed that these are important questions relating to democracy.
“How will the democracy function? These are very serious issues. We want to hear it,” said the bench.
The Supreme Court also observed out loud that the voice of dissent cannot be suppressed, or else democracy will shut down. It also wanted to know whether there was democracy within the Congress party.
“Voice of dissent cannot be suppressed …then democracy will shut. After all they have been elected by the people. Can they not express their dissent?” Justice Mishra queried senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is representing Joshi.
After the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the Rajasthan High Court hearing the plea of 19 rebels MLAs, led by former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, against a disqualification notice, the Congress is contemplating to go in for a floor test in the Assembly to establish its majority.
“Congress has a majority in the state and we have no doubt about it… we have 15 to 20 MLAs more than the opposition,” said party’s special observer for the state, Ajay Maken.
Addressing a press conference, he said that the “battle of Rajasthan is a political one and not legal”, while claiming that “these days, we don’t expect a judgement favourable for us”.
Maken said that the state government headed by Ashok Gehlot may seek a floor test as there are two views in the party, with one holding that the party should wait for the High Court judgement but the other group wanting to go for a floor test, as if it proves its majority, no one can shake it for the next six months.
“Even the BJP is not demanding a floor test,” he said, while slamming the Pilot camp for saying that the Gehlot government has lost its majority.
Maken said that the party has been repeatedly appealing to the Pilot camp to attend the CLP meet “but they are hobnobbing with the BJP”. “The raids on the Chief Minister’s brother proves this and the hospitality being taken in Haryana is a witness to their playing into the BJP’s hands.”
The Congress leader also said that the leaked audio clips of a Union Minister also shows that the BJP has a hand in the Rajasthan crisis. (IANS)