More than three months after he was elected to the Lok Sabha, BJP leader Sanwar Lal Jat has not given up his ministerial post in the Rajasthan state government. Despite protests from the opposition, Sanwar Lal has said he will not leave his post in Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s cabinet, citing a Constitutional provision to back his stand.
Sanwar Lal had vacated the Nasirabad Assembly constituency to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Ajmer. By-election for the seat was held on September 13, and Ramnarayan Gujjar of the Congress was elected MLA. Sanwar Lal, however, continues to hold the portfolios of Water Resources, Indira Gandhi Canal Project, Public Health Engineering, Ground Water, Command Area Development and Water Utilisation in the state government. He also attended the week-long special session of the Assembly, which was adjourned sine die on September 18.
“It is allowed in the Constitution. I am allowed to continue as minister for six months without being a member of the Assembly. I am not doing anything unconstitutional,” Sanwar Lal told The Indian Express, adding that many Congress leaders have done the same in the past.
The Congress, which has 24 legislators in the 200-member Assembly, has sought the intervention of President Pranab Mukherjee and the state Governor. It has also asked the speaker to disqualify him. “It is unconstitutional, illegal and unethical for him to continue as a minister. There was a by-election in his constituency and the Congress candidate won it,” said Sachin Pilot, president of the Congress unit in Rajasthan.
Subhash Kashyap, a constitutional expert, said, “The constitution provides a six-month gap for a minister to get elected to the house. So, in strict legal terms, he can use this provision as an excuse to continue as minister. However, it involves high constitutional impropriety.” Kashyap added that the Constitution does not speak about a situation in which an elected MP continues as a minister in the state because those who framed the Constitution did not envisage such a scenario. “To quote a former speaker, the Constitution was drafted by gentlemen for gentlemen,” he said.
BJP leaders, meanwhile, pointed out that in April 1999, when then Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government faced a crucial trust vote, Congress leader Giridhar Gamang, who had already taken over as the chief minister of Orissa, took part in the voting in which the government fell by one vote.
BJP sources said that Sanwar Lal’s decision is also a result of the party’s “inner issues”. They said that the differences between the CM and the party’s central leadership have delayed the process of the state cabinet expansion. “Once the cabinet reshuffle takes place, there will be a decision on Sanwar Lal too,” sources said.