FOLLOWING A WEEK of hectic parleys, protests and exchange of letters between Raj Bhavan and the state government in Rajasthan, Governor Kalraj Mishra on Wednesday night finally agreed to call an Assembly session from August 14.
“On the new proposal sent by the state Cabinet, I am summoning the House from August 14, 2020,” Mishra told The Indian Express. He blamed the delay in calling the session on the state Cabinet, pointing out that it was “not explaining the reasons why they want to convene the regular monsoon session on such a short notice in this period of pandemic and also in the unusual political conditions”.
Earlier in the evening, the state government had yielded to the Governor’s direction regarding a 21-day notice for calling an Assembly session, with the Ashok Gehlot-led state Cabinet sending a fresh proposal to Raj Bhawan asking for an Assembly session on August 14.
Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal told The Indian Express the government had chosen August 14 as the new date as it will be 21 days if counted from July 23. “Our first proposal was sent to the Governor on July 23,” Dhariwal said.
Raj Bhawan spokesperson Lokesh Chandra Sharma confirmed the Governor has approved the cabinet recommendation.
On Wednesday morning, Governor Mishra said the Gehlot government had not given a clear or reasonable answer to queries raised by him, and returned the state Cabinet’s recommendation—third in a week – seeking an Assembly session. He stood his ground on the need for giving a 21-day notice for calling the session, else specifying the reason for calling it on urgent notice.
The Governor also said ensuring the “free will” of MLAs being kept at resorts within and outside the state is his responsibility.
“Since active Covid 19 cases have increased three-fold in the state in the last one month, why should the lives of 1,200 persons be put at risk without any reason and (absence of) special circumstances,” Governor told the government Wednesday morning.
Having received the note from Raj Bhawan, Gehlot said, “Today also we have been told that we can call it (only) in 21 days… The love letter has arrived, now I am going to have tea with him (the Governor). Ke bhai aapne prem patra teesri baar bhej diyaa, aap chahte kya hain (You have sent me a love letter for the third time, what do you want), tell us, we will work in that manner.” He was speaking to party leaders and MLAs at a ceremony in the party office where Govind Singh Dotasra formally took charge as state Congress President.
After this, Gehlot went to Raj Bhawan during the day, and later held a cabinet meeting in the evening. Speaker C P Joshi also met the Governor during the day. Sources said that these two meetings with the Governor were crucial in breaking the deadlock.
In his communication to the government in the morning, the Governor had insisted the government go by the three issues raised by Raj Bhawan earlier: that a floor test can be the basis of calling an Assembly session on urgent notice, else the government should give a 21-day “clear notice” which is the norm under ordinary circumstances, and that the government should elaborate on the safety protocols at the Assembly in light of Covid 19 pandemic.
He cited section 3(2) of Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of Rajasthan Assembly to drive home the point that the summons to Assembly “shall ordinarily be issued twenty-one clear days before the date so fixed. Provided that if a session is called at short notice, the Secretary shall intimate the date, time and place for the meeting of the Assembly to members in such other manner as the Speaker may direct.”
According to Raj Bhawan, the rules make it clear that a 21-day notice is required in “ordinary” circumstances, but looking at the “present circumstances” where the government is not willing to list a reason for calling the Assembly at short notice, it should indeed proceed with giving a 21-day notice.
“Asked about the reason for calling the Assembly at short notice, the government had said that the Governor is bound to follow the cabinet recommendation and that he has no right to know the reason,” the Governor’s office said.
The Governor had insisted on an agenda – such as a floor test – if the Assembly is being called on short notice. This became void with the government agreeing to 21-day notice but nevertheless “we have largely listed what we will discuss: coronavirus, electricity, water, and some legal work,” Dhariwal said, and reiterated the government line that that the agenda of the House is decided by the Business Advisory Committee (BAC). The final proposal, fourth in a week and approved by the Governor, still has no mention of a floor test.
With the Governor inquiring about safety protocols at the Assembly in light of Covid, Dhariwal said that “It is the prerogative of the Speaker. He has already met him (the Governor).”
“I have no objection in summoning the Assembly as per rules,” the Governor had said, adding that “Constitution is the soul of democratic values.” He also announced that the annual ‘at-home’ organised by Raj Bhawan on Independence Day will not be held this year due to Covid 19 pandemic.
At the party office around noon, Gehlot had praised his MLAs for sitting at Fairmont for 15 days and not getting lured, saying that “history is being made…be it 21 days or 31, we will win.” “The state and the country are asking the Governor, why are you creating a hurdle in calling the Assembly, this is beyond understanding,” he said.
In a message to rebel MLAs, Gehlot said those who deceived should apologise to the high command and that the “party high command’s decision will be accepted by us.”
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