JAIPUR/NEW DELHI: The political showdown in Rajasthan shifted to Raj Bhawan on Friday with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demanding that Governor Kalraj Mishra call the Assembly session immediately for a confidence vote. By extension, Gehlot wants to smoke out the rebellion of 19 party lawmakers led by Sachin Pilot, shutting out all escape routes from disqualification, as the whip comes into play in the Assembly.
Confident about his numbers, Gehlot pressured the Governor to convene the House and brought in busloads of MLAs to stage a dharna at Raj Bhawan. The dharna ended around 8 pm after the Governor assured he will act on the request but wanted some points clarified. The state Cabinet later met to address the queries. One of the points in Mishra’s note was why the government wanted the session when it says it has a majority. He also wanted to know the agenda and said Gehlot’s letter on Thursday did not indicate the state Cabinet’s approval to the request.
“With an open heart, the Governor said he will abide by the Constitution without pressure and ill-will. He said that he has sent some directives to the CM and if gets a satisfactory response, he will be bound by Article 174 of the Constitution to call the session. We have full faith in him,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala.
The nice words were in sharp contrast to the drama earlier in the day, when Gehlot accused the Governor of sitting on his request perhaps due to pressure from the top. Alleging a BJP conspiracy behind the delay, he asserted, “we wrote to him yesterday requesting early convening of the session and waited all night, but there was no response. It is beyond comprehension what kind of forces would compel the Governor to delay such a simple process.” Gehlot went on to say, “the entire state is with us. People are with us.
If the masses surround the Raj Bhawan in protest, we will not be responsible,” drawing a sharp response from the BJP. Earlier in the day, the Rajasthan High Court asked Assembly Speaker C P Joshi to maintain status quo and not to act against the rebels till further orders. In Delhi, Congress leader Kapil Sibal shared his anguish. “If judges of high courts are not going to follow orders laid down by five judges of the Supreme Court, then I might as well take off my robes,” he remarked.
Bound by Cabinet advice
The Governor has no option but to accept the recommendation of the chief minister to convene the Assembly session, legal experts said, adding he is duty-bound to follow the advice of the Cabinet
Poser to chief minister
“Before I could consult experts, you gave out a statement that Raj Bhavan is gheraoed. If you can’t protect the Governor, then how can you protect the state?” the Governor wrote to Gehlot