Jaipur: As the differences between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot came out in public last month, and the Gehlot government initiated disqualification proceedings against the rebel Congress MLAs, the merger of six Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs into the Congress last year has been put to legal scrutiny.
These six MLAs – Sandeep Yadav, Wajib Ali, Deepchand Kheria, Lakhan Meena, Jogendra Awana and Rajendra Gudha – had
joined Congress in September, 2019. Rajasthan assembly speaker C.P. Joshi had allowed them to join the party.
Amid political crisis in the state, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) MLA Madan Dilawar and BSP national secretary Satish Mishra challenged Joshi’s decision on the merger before the single-judge bench of the Rajasthan high court.
The single-judge bench of Justice Mahendra Kumar Goyal, however, refused to stay the participation of these BSP MLAs in the assembly as Congress legislators but issued notices to the speaker, the assembly secretary, and the six BSP MLAs seeking their response in its hearing on August 11.
Not satisfied with the decision of the single-judge bench, the petitioners moved an appeal to the division bench of Rajasthan high court against the order of the single-judge bench. However, on Thursday, the division bench of Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice Prakash Gupta dismissed their appeal but directed to serve notices through Jaisalmer’s district judge and publish them in two newspapers of Jaisalmer and Barmer.
On August 8, the BSP MLAs moved the Supreme Court urging transfer of the petition seeking their disqualification pending in the Rajasthan high court to the apex court.
In their petition, they submitted that similar matters pertaining to the interpretation of paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution (dealing with exceptions to disqualification in case of merger), are already pending before the Supreme Court.
“There is an urgent need to clarify the law in respect of the scope of Paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule to ensure that there are no conflicting judgments,” their plea said.
The Rajasthan high Court will listen to the case on August 11.
As the Rajasthan assembly session is scheduled for August 14 and there appears a possibility of floor test, stay on participation of six BSP MLAs in the assembly can potentially turn the tables on Gehlot.
In the 200-member assembly of Rajasthan, the Congress party has a total of 107 MLAs including the six BSP MLAs and 19 rebel MLAs. An MLA from the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) party, Subhash Garg, is a minister in Gehlot’s cabinet. Gehlot also enjoys support from the 10 of the 13 independent MLAs.
About 19 Congress MLAs from the Congress party including Pilot turned rebels last month. Also, 3 out of the 13 independent MLAs are known to back Pilot. This brings the Pilot camp’s count to 22.
Leaving aside the 22 MLAs from the Pilot camp, Gehlot has 98, which includes the six BSP MLAs.
The BJP has 72 MLAs and its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has 3 MLAs, totalling 75. Others are from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (2) and the Communist Party of India Marxist (2).
There can be two outcomes, either the court will go ahead and stay the participation of the six BSP MLAs on August 11 or let them continue as Congress legislators.
In the first case, which is the court ordering a stay on BSP MLAs, the count of the assembly will be reduced to 194 and the half-way mark would come down to 98.
In this case, Gehlot’s count, which is 98, including the six BSP MLAs, will come down to 92. He can expect votes from MLAs from the BTP and CPI(M), totalling 95.
One of the Gehlot camp MLAs Master Bhawalal is ill and it doesn’t appear that he will be able to make it to the assembly session. Speaker C.P. Joshi is also included in Gehlot’s count. He can vote only in case of a tie. Keeping this in mind, the final tally for Gehlot, in best case scenario, is 93 which is five less than the half-way mark (98).
On the other side, BJP’s count is 75 and if the 22 Pilot camp MLAs would vote in BJP’s favour, its count would reach 97, which would be only one less than the half-way mark.
If the court doesn’t put a stay on the BSP MLAs, the half-way mark would remain 101.
Gehlot will have 98 MLAs including the BSP MLAs plus 2 from BTP and one from CPI(M), coming to 101. However, in case the other parties issue a whip against voting for Congress in the floor test, Gehlot would be in a trouble.
BJP’s count would still be 97, which includes support of 22 Pilot camp MLAs.
Clearly, the court’s stay on BSP MLAs’ participation in the assembly would spoil the game for Gehlot.