As the Rajasthan Assembly met again Monday after nearly a six-month break, the opposition BJP attacked the ruling Congress over continuation of the 7th session of the current 15th Legislative Assembly instead of calling a fresh one. The last sitting of the 7th session was from February 9 to March 28 this year.
In a Gazette Notification dated August 21, 2022, Rajasthan Assembly Secretary Mahaveer Prasad Sharma said: “The sitting of the seventh session of Fifteenth Rajasthan Assembly, which was adjourned indefinitely on March 28, 2022 at 5:54 pm, will resume at 11 am on September 19, 2022, at Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha, Jyoti Nagar, Jaipur.”
The BJP has alleged that by not calling a fresh session, the Congress government has curtailed the “democratic rights” of the MLAs.
The Budget Session, or the 7th session of the current 15th Legislative Assembly, was held from February 9 to March 28 this year. Usually, the session is prorogued once the sitting concludes.
Article 174 (2) (a) of the Constitution empowers the Governor to prorogue the House, but this is usually done by him upon recommendation from the state government.
Once a session is prorogued, the state Cabinet has to send a fresh proposal to the Governor for calling a new one.
As per Rules of Procedure for Rajasthan Assembly, there should be at least three sessions, namely Winter Session, Budget Session and Monsoon Session of the Assembly in a calendar year and the total number of sitting in all the sessions put together in a calendar year shall not be less than sixty.
However, this year’s Budget Session wasn’t prorogued and the present session was called in continuation of the Budget Session, effectively bypassing the Governor.
The Rules of Procedure state that an MLA can ask up to 40 starred questions and 60 unstarred questions in the Budget Session, and up to 10 starred and 20 unstarred questions during other sessions. However, this is also subject to discretion of the Assembly Speaker.
Starred questions are those to which a member desires an oral answer to be given and where a supplementary question may be asked. Unstarred questions are those to which written replies shall be given to the member concerned and Short Notice Questions are those to which a member desires an oral answer within a period shorter than fourteen days.
The BJP says that several MLAs had already asked 100 questions – or almost exhausted this limit – in the Budget Session, adding that since the same session is being continued in the Assembly, they will be unable to ask more questions during the current sitting.
It reasons that since the last sitting of the Assembly in March, there have been several more developments in the state and the MLAs wish to ask questions regarding those developments, which may concern their constituency, district, any department, etc. but will be unable to do so.
On Monday, BJP MLAs led by Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, former CM Vasundhara Raje and others protested in Speaker C P Joshi’s office over the issue, before the session began.
Kataria said that this is perhaps for the first time that those who asked 100 questions in session up to March “have been banned (from asking more questions).” He said that this effectively curtailed the “democratic rights” of the MLAs.
CM Ashok Gehlot Monday said that the previous session was continued “purposely”. He alleged that the BJP has a “new model of horse trading” in the country where it topples governments, “be it Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,” and are trying this in other states too.
Recalling the events of 2020 when the Gehlot government was threatened by an internal revolt, the CM said that back then (in 2020) the MLAs had to protest for calling a session of the Assembly, and hence “we purposely continued the session”.
The Congress reasons that with Assembly elections scheduled for late 2023, the Congress is being extra careful and is preemptively taking measures to guard against any attempt to topple the present government.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker C P Joshi sidestepped the issue. He said that the matter of proroguing is “between the Governor and the government, the Speaker has no role in it.”