Assembly session soon, will prove majority: Rajasthan CM
Gehlot did not elaborate on when the session would be called but added that all issues -- from Covid to politics - will be discussed.Updated: Jul 24, 2020, 06:08 IST
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday said he will call an assembly session soon to prove his majority and later met governor Kalraj Mishra, hours after the Supreme Court dealt a blow to his camp by refusing to stay proceedings in the Rajasthan high court on the disqualification of 19 rebel legislators, including former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.
Gehlot did not elaborate on when the session would be called but added that all issues -- from Covid to politics - will be discussed. “The assembly session will be called soon and we will prove the mandate in the house,” he told reporters.
Later in the evening, he met Mishra for about 20 minutes and officials termed it a courtesy call. Congress leaders said on condition of anonymity that the meeting was to apprise the governor of political developments and discuss the possibility of holding a session.
In his press conference, Gehlot expressed hope that rebel MLAs will come back and vote for the party in the assembly session.
“Some of them (dissident MLAs) are calling and saying that we aren’t able to come out… bouncers are deployed. Even without them, we have the full majority and will come to the house with those numbers, and prove the mandate,” he said.
His comments came hours after the top court refused to suspend proceedings of the Rajasthan high court, which is scheduled to pronounce a verdict on disqualification notices sent by speaker CP Joshi to 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including Pilot. The court is expected to pronounce its verdict on Friday.
In the 200 member Rajasthan assembly, Gehlot camp has 101 legislators and Pilot camp has 22 -- including 19 Congress rebels and three independents. The Opposition has 75 MLAs, including 72 of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and three of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.
One legislator Bhanwarlal Meghwal -- believed to be close to Pilot -- is indisposed and the speaker casts his vote only to break a tie. This effectively means that Gehlot enjoys a narrow majority at the moment. Despite the ongoing turmoil in the state, the opposition BJP has not openly sought a trust vote so far .
According to the rules, the governor notifies an assembly session 21 days prior to the first sitting but in an emergency situation, a session can be called within 24 hours for a specific agenda.
The business of the house is decided by the Business Advisory Committee, which is headed by speaker CP Joshi.
A senior government official said the legislative agenda might include approving an ordinance to amend the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which the state government used in May to hike penalties for lockdown violations.
“The calling of the assembly session would be more for disqualification of the rebel MLAs and negate any adverse ruling by the Rajasthan high court,” said a Congress leader, who was not willing to be named.
The leader said a whip could be issued on voting on Ordinance and those failing to attend could be served disqualification notices for failing to attend the vote.
In his press conference, Gehlot backed speaker CP Joshi’s disqualification notice to 19 rebel legislators and said only “misguided” MLAs went to the court.
“There are many judgments of the Supreme Court, where when the intentions are known that the MLA wants to leave the party voluntarily, the Speaker can issue notice and after holding hearings and discussions can take a decision on disqualification,” Gehlot said.
The notices were issued on the petition filed by Congress chief whip Mahesh Joshi with the speaker claiming that not attending the legislative party meeting translated to the rebel MLAs voluntarily giving up their party membership. The rebel MLAs moved the high court, claimed that the grounds of the notice was violation of constitutional guidelines and anti-defection laws.
Gehlot also challenged Union water resources minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to get his voice sample tested in connection with a controversy over a set of audio tapes. The Congress claims the tapes prove that Shekhawat was involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the state government while the central minister has denied all charges and said his voice is not heard in the tapes.
“We can send it (audio tapes) for forensic lab testing to America, if they (BJP) have no trust in the government of Rajasthan,” Gehlot said. He added that the Congress was not afraid of raids by central agencies, referring to a number of raids in the past two weeks on firms and individuals with ties to the chief minister.
BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek said the recent events exposed the CM, who did not have the legislators to prove his majority. “The CM’s statement has neither truth nor evidence,” he said.