We’ll protest at PM’s house, warns Gehlot | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

We’ll protest at PM’s house, warns Gehlot

Hindustan Times, Jaipur/New Delhi | BySachin Saini and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Jul 26, 2020 12:32 AM IST

Gehlot told MLAs at a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting that he was ready to knock at the doors of the President’s House and protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence in the national capital to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “conspiracy”.

The Rajasthan government has addressed governor Kalraj Mishra’s queries on the urgent need for holding a special session of the assembly and requested him to convene the House on July 31, Congress functionaries aware of the developments said on Saturday, a day after legislators supporting chief minister Ashok Gehlot staged a five-hour demonstration at Raj Bhavan to push for their demand for a special sitting.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot speaks to the media.(Himanshu Vyas/ Hindustan Times)
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot speaks to the media.(Himanshu Vyas/ Hindustan Times)

Raising the pitch in the midst of a political crisis, Gehlot told MLAs at a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting that he was ready to knock at the doors of the President’s House and protest outside the Prime Minister’s residence in the national capital to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s “conspiracy” to topple his government, according to the Congress functionaries who did not want to named.

A letter by the Congress sent to Mishra stressed that the governor had to go by the aid and advice of the council of ministers on convening, proroguing or dissolving the House and that he cannot dictate procedures of the House, which was in the domain of the speaker, said the people aware of the developments.

Mishra was yet to take a final call on convening the session till late Saturday night. Officials in his office, who did not want to be named, said a “considered” view was being taken on the fresh proposal and a decision will be announced at an “appropriate” time.

“The fresh proposal has been prepared with keeping legalities and provisions in mind, and approved by the cabinet before it was sent to Raj Bhavan,” a minister in the Gehlot government said, a day after Mishra sought to know the emergency for summoning the session and its agenda.

Facing protests by legislators backing Gehlot, Mishra, who was in the BJP before becoming the governor, also asked why the chief minister was pushing for a floor test even though no one had put forth such a demand and how the government was planning to protect the MLAs in the backdrop of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“We have proposed calling the session from July 31, giving sufficient time for MLAs to reach and attend the assembly. The governor is also informed of the important bills and business to be tabled in house,” the minister quoted above said. He added that the Rajasthan Epidemic Diseases Ordinance 2020, notified in May for strict enforcement of Covid-19 restrictions, also needed to be tabled in the House.

Rajasthan is facing a political crisis due to a rebellion by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and a section of legislators backing him. The Gehlot camp, which is confident of its numbers and feels a floor test may be its best bet to end the political crisis, says the governor is delaying convening a session due to pressure from the BJP-led central government. Mishra denies the charge and says he will follow constitutional norms to convene the House.

“He had queries. We have replied to them,” a second minister. The proposal has been submitted after consultation with the speaker, he said.

The draft proposal was prepared at a cabinet meeting that began at 10pm on Friday night and stretched to 1am, Congress functionaries said. It was finalised at another cabinet meeting later on Saturday.

According to the law laid down by the Supreme Court, the governor notifies the holding of a session on the recommendation of the council of ministers.

Former Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam said normally, as per the Constitution, the advice of the council of ministers is binding on the governor, but when there is a dispute about issues such as the number of lawmakers supporting a chief minister, then it is a special case.

“The governor can exercise his discretion. He can then summon MLAs to Raj Bhavan [governor’s house], make inquiries, and have discussions with various MLA groups, etc. So the general rule that the governor is bound by aid and advice of the council of ministers might not be relevant in the Rajasthan matter,” said Sathasivam, who has also served as Kerala governor.

Earlier in the day, a CLP meeting was held at a luxury hotel on the Jaipur-Delhi highway, where MLAs backing Gehlot have been camping since July 13. “We will not let the BJP conspiracy to succeed. If required, we will go to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and stage dharna; if necessary, we will protest outside the PM’s house,” a senior Congress leader quoted CM Gehlot as saying. “This fight is to save democracy.”

Congress general secretary Avinash Pande said the high command made efforts so that members can freely talk about issues if they had complaints. “...but unfortunately, they became puppet in the hands of BJP and I don’t think that there return is possible from there,” he said, apparently referring to the Pilot camp.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala praised the “unity and collectiveness” shown by the MLAs at Friday’s demonstration. “...in the future, it will be remembered how 102 people together defeated those who were trying to crush the Constitution,” he said.

The BJP denies the Congress’s claim that it is behind the Rajasthan turmoil and says the crisis was triggered by an internal feud in the Congress. Pilot, for his part, says he has no plans of joining the BJP.

Gehlot has the support of 101 members (though this does not include speaker CP Joshi). Pilot has 18 other Congress MLAs and three independents in his camp, taking his tally to 22. The BJP and its ally Rashtriya Loktrantrik Party have 75 seats. Bhanwarlal Meghwal, one Congress MLA said to be close to Pilot, is indisposed. If Pilot’s tally is added to that of the opposition alliance, it takes their number up to 97. A three-member swing from the Gehlot camp to the Pilot camp or to the BJP could lead to the government falling in the event of a floor test.

Meanwhile, a delegation of 15 BJP leaders, including state party president Satish Poonia and MLAs from Jaipur City, met the governor in the evening and expressed displeasure at chief minister Gehlot’s Friday remarks that the people of the state could gherao Raj Bhavan if the Mishra did not convene a session.

“The pressure on the governor to get a decision in their favour is a derogatory attempt to threaten constitutional institutions,” they said in a memorandum that was shared with the media.

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