Congress wins floor test after Pilot, Gehlot truce
Buoyed by the return of Pilot and 18 other rebel lawmakers to the Congress fold after a truce mediated by the party high command earlier this week, the government moved a confidence motion on the first day of the session, aiming to send across the message that Gehlot’s dispensation was stable and not facing any threat.Updated: Aug 14, 2020 23:45 IST
The Rajasthan government sailed through a floor test in the state assembly on Friday, an expected outcome that the ruling Congress hopes will bring down the curtain on a month-long political crisis triggered by intense bickering between two factions of the party — one led by chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the other by his now-dismissed deputy Sachin Pilot.
Buoyed by the return of Pilot and 18 other rebel lawmakers to the Congress fold after a truce mediated by the party high command earlier this week, the government moved a confidence motion on the first day of the session, aiming to send across the message that Gehlot’s dispensation was stable and not facing any threat.
The motion, moved by parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal and passed by a voice vote, did not throw any surprise.
“Winning the trust vote in the assembly is a message to the forces that are trying to destabilise elected governments in the country. Their every tactic failed in Rajasthan,” Gehlot tweeted, taking a veiled dig at the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“It is people’s unwavering trust in us and the unity of our Congress MLAs that has brought this victory,” he added.
Pilot, who met Gehlot a day before at a Congress meeting in their first such interaction in at least over a month, said the outcome should end speculations over the government’s stability. “Despite various attempts by the opposition, the result [of the trust vote] is in the favour of the government,” he told reporters outside the assembly.
In the House, he described himself as one of the “strongest warriors” of the Congress, responding to opposition leaders taking his name in connection with the recent crisis during a debate on the motion.
On July 14, Pilot was sacked from the posts of the deputy chief minister and the state Congress president after his revolt threatened the state government. In the first session since then, he was allotted a seat in the second row — close to the opposition section — in a new arrangement. Previously, he used to sit next to the chief minister in the front row.
“They are taking my name repeatedly. Prior to my seat being changed, I was safe and part of the government. Then I thought why our speaker and chief whip [Mahesh Joshi] have given me a seat here? I thought for two minutes and then saw that this is a border.
“On one side is the ruling party and on the other is the opposition. Who is sent to the border? The strongest warrior is sent,” he said, interrupting Rajendra Rathore, the deputy leader of the opposition and a BJP leader.
Gehlot, who concluded the debate, reiterated his charge against the BJP and accused it of trying to bring down the government. “I will not let the government topple at any cost even if you make all attempts,” he said.
The chief minister also accused the BJP of “creating conflicts” and targeting elected Congress governments across the country. “The conspiracy was yours, of your party and your high command... democracy is in danger,” Gehlot said.
Speaking before him, leader of opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said the BJP never attempted to dislodge the government. “All this was because of internal bickering in the Congress,” he said.
Proceedings in the House began at 11am and the session was adjourned till 1pm after obituary references. The debate on the motion began after the House reconvened and the floor test was held at 4:05pm. The House was then adjourned and it will reconvene next Friday.
The Rajasthan crisis appeared to have ended after a meeting between Pilot and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday. Later that night, the party announced the setting up of the panel to look into issues raised by the 42-year-old Pilot and the 18 rebel legislators, who questioned Gehlot’s style of functioning and alleged that Pilot was being sidelined.
With the return of the rebels, the Congress alone has 107 legislators, including speaker CP Joshi, in the 200-member House where the majority mark is 101. It also appears to have the support of all 13 independents; three of them backed Pilot and have now pledged support to Gehlot. Five MLAs from other parties, too, back the government in the House. On the other hand, the BJP (72) and its ally Rashtriya Loktrantrik Party (3) have a total of 75 seats.
Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma said the government was in a comfortable position all along, but the opposition tried to mislead the people. “Once again it has been proved that CM Gehlot enjoys the trust of the House,” she said.
But BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek the truce between Gehlot and Pilot will not last long. “Their dispute will remain till the time the issue of the CM’s post is resolved by the Congress leadership...,” Pareek said, referring to the demand by Pilot’s supporters in the past that he be made the chief minister.
Political Analyst Narayan Bareth said it was Gehlot who emerged as a winner on all fronts in the end. “It will increase the stature of Gehlot within the party and outside. He handled the crisis in an effective way.”