The Ashok Gehlot government has sent a fresh recommendation to Governor Kalraj Mishra asking for a session of the Rajasthan Assembly on July 31. The Governor had returned an earlier recommendation by the government, asking for clarifications on six specific points.
The fresh recommendation was sent late on Saturday night, after the cabinet met for a second time earlier in the evening. “All queries have been answered in the latest recommendation, through which we have sought an Assembly session from July 31,” a Congress leader said.
Until late on Sunday night, Raj Bhavan had not responded to the fresh recommendation. In a video released in the evening as part of the Congress’s ‘Speak Up For Democracy’ campaign, Chief Minister Gehlot said he hoped the Governor would act soon.
“Until now, we have not received a reply,” Gehlot said. “The Governor is a long-time politician, sociable and vyavahar-kushal (well mannered), so I hope that he gives us the order soon, and we will call the Assembly.” The government would like the House to discuss the Covid-19 crisis, the “ruined economy” due to the lockdown, and have some political discussions as well, the chief minister said.
In New Delhi, the Congress accused the Governor of acting in a partisan and “motivated” manner. The queries that Mishra had raised “reflected a sorry state of affairs of obfuscation, obstruction and dilatory tactics on flimsy, frivolous, and non-jurisdictional grounds”, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said at a press conference.
The Gehlot government, which faces a challenge from former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 MLAs loyal to him, wants a floor test so that it can prove its majority, and be spared of another count in the Assembly for the next six months.
A successful floor test will also allow the Congress to let its ministers and MLAs out of Jaipur’s Fairmont hotel and resort, where they have been kept for two weeks now. While seeking a session of the Assembly, the second recommendation of the cabinet did not, however, make a specific mention of a floor test.
After the Governor did not act on the cabinet’s original recommendation on Thursday, Gehlot had accused him of acting under “pressure from above”, and had led a protest of his MLAs at Raj Bhavan. The protest was called off after an “assurance” by the Governor who, however, asked for the government’s response on six points.
Mishra said the cabinet note had not mentioned the date from which the session was to be called. No reason had been given for calling the session at short notice, and no agenda had been proposed. A 21-day notice is normally required to call a session, Mishra said, and also sought details on logistics of holding the session in the middle of the pandemic. The Governor also sought clarification on the reason for calling the session if the government indeed has a majority.
Singhvi countered each of these queries.
He rejected as absurd the Governor’s reference to the fact that cases related to disqualification of some MLAs were pending in the Supreme Court and the Rajasthan High Court. “Whether the Assembly Speaker disqualifies or does not do so, cannot, per se, affect the holding of a session or a numbers test on the floor of the House. Whether the apex court or the High Court decides one way or another, it cannot affect the calling of a session or the exercise of power of Governor under Article 174, which, obviously, does not arise before either the Speaker or the two courts,” he said.
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“Such flimsy clutching at straws” underlines the “true ulterior motives of persons holding high constitutional posts and their so-called advisers”, he said. On the issues of the date, agenda, and reason for calling the session at short notice, Singhvi said: “If the Governor’s office is unaware of the elementary fact that an agenda is sent after the date of the Assembly session is notified, then an extremely sorry state of affairs exists, where ignorance of basic procedures is bliss in causing unconstitutional delay.”
The mention of the 21-day notice reflected the motivated nature of the queries, Singhvi said. “…It is inexcusable for the Governor’s office not to know (that) these time periods have been treated for decades as directory and innumerable sessions have been called at a week’s or even five days’ notice.” The Governor’s concerns on logistics “seem touching”, Singhvi said, but were “patently beyond his jurisdiction”.
The spokesperson described Mishra’s queries as “superficial, clearly motivated, digressive and extraneous”, and said they were “coming from the highest authorities of the central government and being parroted without change as his master’s voice from Raj Bhavan”.
In Jaipur, the Governor on Sunday met Chief Secretary Rajeeva Swarup and Director General of Police Bhupendra Yadav and asked them about the Congress’s planned nationwide protest to “Save Democracy – Save Constitution” outside Raj Bhavans on Monday. The two officers briefed the Governor on the security arrangements at the Jaipur Raj Bhavan.
Later in the evening, Congress state president Govind Singh Dotasra announced that the party will not protest at the Jaipur Raj Bhavan on Monday. Gehlot had earlier warned that “it won’t be our responsibility if the entire population of the state gheraos the Raj Bhavan.”
In his video message, Gehlot said that had India been like Pakistan, Narendra Modi would perhaps not have been elected Prime Minister. The country is united because of the sacrifices over 70 years, including those by Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, and the former chief minister of Punjab Beant Singh, Gehlot said. “If democracy was not strong and the situation was like Pakistan, then perhaps Narendra Modi ji would not have become Prime Minister. He needs to think, his party will need to think, about leaving aside intentions of toppling elected governments. Democracy will then be strengthened, or else history will not forgive (them).”
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