Keen to keep his flock intact and snuff out at the earliest a party rebellion led by former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot mounted an offensive Friday against Governor Kalraj Mishra, claiming that he was not calling a session of the state Assembly because of “pressure from above”.
Gehlot did not say who or what he meant by “pressure from above”, but he has been accusing the BJP of plotting with Pilot to topple his government. The Pilot camp has 19 MLAs and Gehlot claims he still has a majority in the 200-member House.
The CM took his party MLAs in four buses to the Raj Bhavan where they sat on a protest on the lawns and demanded that an Assembly session be called Monday. Governor Mishra stepped out to meet them.
Earlier, Gehlot warned that “it won’t be our responsibility if the entire population of the state gherao the Raj Bhavan”.
This prompted BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria to urge the Centre not to leave law and order in the hands of Rajasthan Police and deploy CRPF at the Raj Bhavan “so that sanctity of this Constitutional post is upheld”.
The MLAs left the Raj Bhavan following an assurance from the Governor. Congress communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “The Governor told all of us, with an open heart, that he will follow the Constitution without any pressure. He has noted some comments and sent an order to the CM. As soon as the Cabinet addresses those comments, then, as per Article 174 of the Constitution of India, the Governor is duty-bound.”
“The Governor gave us this assurance that he is bound under Article 174 to follow the Cabinet’s recommendation, we believe him as an elder and head of family. The Cabinet, led by the CM, will sit again and if there are any doubts, then they will be addressed,” Surjewala said.
A Cabinet meeting was called after 10 pm. After the MLAs left the Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s office said, “no one is above samvaidhanik maryada (Constitutional propriety)” and that “there shouldn’t be any pressure politics”.
The Governor has essentially raised six points:
1) The Cabinet note does not mention the date from which the session has to be called, and it does not indicate Cabinet approval for it.
2) No reason has been provided for calling the session on short notice and no agenda proposed. As per procedure, a 21-day notice is necessary to call a session.
3) The state government has been asked by the Governor to ensure the freedom of all MLAs, including freedom to move around.
4)The Governor’s office said disqualification of some MLAs are pending in the High Court and Supreme Court. “This should be considered by the government; additionally, the Governor has asked that details be provided on how an Assembly session can be conducted, considering the spread of coronavirus.
5)The Raj Bhavan has given “clear directions” that every action will be done as per Constitutional propriety and provisions of set rules.
6) The Governor has asked the government if it has majority, why call an Assembly session just to prove majority.
Earlier, speaking to reporters outside Fairmont hotel where his MLAs are lodged, Gehlot said “after a Cabinet decision (Thursday), we wrote to Governor Kalraj Mishra, saying an Assembly session be called… We were hopeful he would issue orders, call an Assembly session.. We waited all night, but haven’t heard from him,” he said, adding it is “beyond our understanding”.
“A simple process is employed, and the Governor has to issue orders. There is no reason to stop it. We believe that due to pressure from above, he is helpless and not giving directions to call an Assembly (session),” he said.
“We want to go to the floor (of the House) … there was a demand, including by Opposition parties, and there was discussion in the judiciary as well on why you don’t call the Assembly (session) and hold a floor test. And now when we are ready to call an Assembly (session)… Everyone is distressed and sad because Rajasthan doesn’t have a tradition of toppling a government through tod phod (sabotage),” the CM said.
“We want to start an Assembly session from Monday. Wahan doodh ka doodh paani ka paani ho jayega (Things will be clear there),” he said.
On claims that the coronavirus pandemic was among the reasons cited by the Governor to not call an Assembly session, Health Minister Raghu Sharma said “if it is indeed so, then we are ready to test all 200 MLAs. And how were Rajya Sabha elections conducted on June 19?”.
In New Delhi, the Congress hit out at Governor Mishra for not accepting the Gehlot Cabinet’s recommendation to convene an Assembly session.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said: “The country is governed by the rule of law and Constitution. Governments are formed and run by majority mandate. The BJP’s conspiracy to topple the Rajasthan government is clear. It is an insult of the eight crore people of Rajasthan. The Governor should convene a session of the Assembly, so that the truth comes out before the country.”
Referring to the five-judge Constitution Bench judgment in the Nabam Rebia (Arunachal Pradesh) case, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the Governor is bound by the advice of the Cabinet, and he has no option but to convene the Assembly if the Cabinet has made such a recommendation to him.
“A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court has, in the Arunachal Pradesh case, ruled that the Governor has to summon the House when he is called upon by the government. That is his Constitutional obligation. He doesn’t have to wait for any judgment of any court. He cannot say no to the summoning of the House. How can he say no?” Sibal told reporters.
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