Ashok Gehlot aces 1st test, sequesters MLAs in luxury resort to prep for more
Rajasthan political crisis: Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is preparing for the next round of attacks that could come from the rival Bharatiya Janata PartyUpdated: Jul 13, 2020 18:39 IST
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has been under attack from his deputy Sachin Pilot, on Monday shifted his 100-plus lawmakers to a luxury resort on the outskirts of Jaipur city to shield them from the pulls and pressures of politics that could jeopardise the survival of his 18-month-old government.
The lawmakers were packed into buses on Monday afternoon, minutes after they signed off on a resolution expressing complete support for Gehlot’s leadership role in the state government and accused the BJP of efforts to topple the government. Their destination was Fairmont Jaipur, a 245-room luxury resort about 25 km from the chief minister’s official residence. The hotel, built in the tradition of grand Mughal palaces, has a published room tariff starting at Rs 8,500.
A Congress leader claimed that the legislators were being shielded from rivals till the situation stabilises. It isn’t clear for how long this would continue.
Congress leaders who attended the legislature party meeting at Gehlot’s official residence in state capital Jaipur’s plush Civil Lines locality said the chief minister had the support of 107 lawmakers. “The government has more than a comfortable majority,” a Congress leader said.
While the Congress did not formally put out the number of lawmakers present, it did make public its resolution . The resolution, apart from extending support to Gehlot, blamed the BJP for the crisis and demanded action against legislators who were playing the BJP’s game. That was a dart aimed at Sachin Pilot, who is also the Rajasthan Congress president.
Sachin Pilot’s camp, however, has made light of the resolution or the number of legislators backing it.
The chief minister’s garden isn’t the place to prove the majority, the assembly is.
”If they have numbers as claimed then why not do a head count, take them to the governor instead of moving them to a hotel,” sources close to Sachin Pilot said, according to news agency ANI.
A Congress leader said the party and Gehlot were preparing for such eventualities. One option on the table, the Congress leader, is to parade the lawmakers before the governor. Since such a parade does not have any legal basis, there is a view that Gehlot should request the governor to convene a session of the assembly and move a confidence motion before letting the lawmakers at Fairmont resort head home.
This is the second time in one month that the Congress has had to commandeer its lawmakers into a hotel. The first was right before the Rajya Sabha elections last month when Gehlot was worried that some lawmakers could vote against his two nominees.
Questions over the survival of Ashok Gehlot government peaked late last evening after Sachin Pilot’s camp claimed that he had the support of over 30 Congress and some independent MLAs.
Gehlot, who had been primming for an all-out battle with his deputy for months, worked the phones through the night.
At 2.30 am, the Congress in-charge for Rajasthan Avinash Pande announced at a press conference that they had secured the written support of 109 lawmakers. A meeting of the Congress legislature party was also convened for 10.30 am in Jaipur for a show of strength.
The majority mark in the 200-member assembly is 101.
The Gehlot camp, however, had some trouble ensuring their physical presence by the early Monday deadline and had to defer the meeting to afternoon. Before the meeting started, Randeep Surjewala and Ajay Maken, struck a conciliatory note, saying Pilot and the other MLAs could still attend the party meeting. The doors are open for them, Surjewala said. The resolution pushing for action against Pilot came later.