Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has been facing leadership challenges from within his party, on Tuesday heaved a sigh of relief after six Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLAs switched over to the Congress.
The merger has come as a major boost to the Congress ahead of the municipal elections in November and the panchayat polls early next year.
In a major political development late on Monday night, the entire block of six BSP MLAs merged itself with the Congress. After Gehlot’s offer to jump ship, the six lawmakers met Assembly Speaker CP Joshi around midnight and handed over a letter to merge with the Congress.
As per the anti-defection law, a group of two-thirds or more MLAs of any party can switch over to another party without incurring any disqualification.
The merger allayed Gehlot’s fear of an unstable government, which has recently come under attack by Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot over the deterioration in the law and order situation in the state.
The Congress’s earlier tally in the Assembly was 101, with support of one MLA of the Rashtriya Lok Dal. The Gehlot government had a wafer-thin majority in the Assembly although it had outside support of 12 Independent MLAs.
The party’s tally has now risen to 106.
BSP MLA Rajendra Gudha said his party members had decided to ensure stability of the government and work for the state’s development.
From 2008 to 2013, Gudha was the leader of the BSP Legislature Party and had decided to support the Gehlot government. He was given a minister’s post.
A few months ago, Gudha said that BSP MLAs liked Gehlot as the chief minister. Although Gudha was elected from a BSP ticket, he is considered to be a Gehlot loyalist.
The scenario had repeated itself in 2008 – when the Congress was five seats short of a majority and the BSP won six seats. Gudha then was the leader of the BSP in the Assembly and, along with other MLAs, had decided to join forces with the Congress party, enabling Gehlot to manage a majority after that merger.
Last year, the Congress leadership chose Gehlot over Pilot for the post of chief minister as it was aware that he had past experience to successfully run a minority government.
BSP supremo Mayawati criticised the defections, accusing the ruling party of betraying her, while the opposition BJP and others described the development as Gehlot's “jugaad” to secure his government.
In a series of tweets, the BSP chief dubbed the Congress a “fraudulent party”.
“The Congress government in Rajasthan has lured the BSP MLAs (to its fold) and given proof of being a non-trustworthy and fraudulent party once again," she said.
However, Gehlot denied having given any inducement to the defecting legislators and stated Mayawati should understand the situation as the decision will benefit the Rajasthan.