Gehlot, Pilot meet; BJP, Congress talk floor test
Speaker CP Joshi can use his discretion to decide whether to allow the government or the BJP motion — both seeking a floor test, according to analysts.Updated: Aug 14, 2020, 04:41 IST
Chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot shook hands and flashed victory signs at a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in a show of unity on Thursday, the first such interaction between the two leaders since Pilot rebelled over a month ago and triggered a political crisis that threatened the state government.
Three days after the Congress high command brokered a peace deal that ended the turmoil, Gehlot said at the meeting that his government will move a confidence motion in a crucial assembly session beginning on Friday and emerge victorious, a move aimed at sending a message of stability after the month-long tussle, according to party leaders.
On the day the warring factions reunited, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the truce was temporary and announced that it will move a no-confidence motion against the government, which appears to be comfortably placed in terms of numbers, especially after the return of 19 dissident legislators, including Pilot, to the Congress fold. The BJP, which also asked its MLAs to prepare for polls, did not ask for a floor test at the height of the crisis that began unfolding in mid-July.
Speaker CP Joshi can use his discretion to decide whether to allow the government or the BJP motion — both seeking a floor test, according to analysts. An official at the assembly secretariat, who did not want to be named, said the government’s trust motion was likely to get preference. “This has been the tradition of the house,” said the official.
Political analyst Narayan Bareth said the motion by the ruling side gets preference in such a situation. “When a confidence motion and a no-confidence motion are moved simultaneously, the assembly tradition is that the ruling side gets preference. However, the final call is of the speaker,” he said.
With the return of the rebels, the Congress alone has 107 legislators, including the speaker, 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.
At the CLP meeting in Gehlot’s residence, all 19 legislators, who protested against chief minister over his style of functioning and alleged that Pilot was being sidelined, were present. “Apne to apne hote hain [they are our own],” Gehlot said in his peace message, referring to the dissidents.
At the same time, he also said the Congress would have proved its majority in the House even without the rebel MLAs, but that “would not have made us happy or given a stable government”, according to legislators present at the meeting who did not want to be named.
To be sure, the Gehlot government has already indicated that it is keen on a floor test despite the truce because the party thinks it is the perfect way to send across a message of unity. A floor test will also give some breather to Gehlot to let him put his house in order since a motion can be moved only once in a session.
On Thursday, the Congress also revoked the suspension of seven-time legislator Bhanwar Lal Sharma and former tourism minister Vishvendra Singh, two Pilot loyalists who were accused of being part of a conspiracy to topple the government. Gehlot assured all MLAs that their grievances will be addressed and he was ready to meet them wherever they want. Pilot said he was in the Congress and will remain in the Congress, a Rajasthan Congress leader said, requesting anonymity. Pilot also thanked all for supporting him during his tenure as the state Congress chief for over six years and for the post of deputy chief minister. “If the style of functioning or governance has to be changed, then we should not hesitate,”Pilot said, according to the leader cited above.
Addressing MLAs, Congress general secretary KC Venugopal said the month-long crisis was a “nightmare for all of us” and asked MLAs to refrain from blaming each other. “It is time for unity in the larger interest of the government and the party. Without the party ,we are nobody,” he said.“No more post-mortems...Congress president Sonia Gandhi has told me to convey this to you,” he told the legislators. He said the high command decided on the truce in consultation with Gehlot. Venugopal’s message was meant to convey to the MLAs who have backed Gehlot during the crisis that the chief minister was always part of the discussions with the Pilot camp, a central Congress functionary said.
He said there was some resentment in the Gehlot camp over the return of Pilot and the other rebels who threatened the stability of the government. The chief minister and other senior leaders had to persuade them. “Now, they are willing to work with the rebels,” the leader said. After the meeting, Congress leaders Venugopal, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Ajay Maken and Govind Singh Dotasra, among others, posed for photographs along with Gehlot and Pilot.
Before Thursday’s CLP meeting, Gehlot tweeted, asking MLAs loyal to him to “forgive and forget” in the interest of the country and the state.
The BJP, too, held a meeting of its legislators where former chief minister Vasundhara Raje is believed to have asked them to prepare for polls. “She [Raje] said this government would not last long and that we should be ready for elections,” a BJP lawmaker present at the meeting said on condition of anonymity. Gulab Chand Kataria, the leader of the opposition, said his party readied a no-confidence motion proposal and 40 lawmakers signed it.
Raje separately denied reports of a division in the BJP. “Some people are spreading news about a division in BJP. Let me tell them that the BJP is a family and we are all together” she tweeted. State BJP president Satish Poonia said Gehlot made “cheap allegations” against the BJP, referring to the Congress’s charge that the opposition party was trying to topple the government. “This government does not have a future.”