Scrambling to save the Rajasthan government, the Ashok Gehlot-led cabinet has sent the governor a revised proposal for an assembly session on July 31 as the Congress backs its leader with a digital campaign and plans for nationwide protests to ramp up the pressure.
On the same day, Mayawati's BSP issued a whip to six of its MLAs directing them to vote against Congress in case there was a no-confidence motion.
A day before the Supreme Court hears the case of the embattled Congress-led government, there was business-like calm in the Rajasthan capital on Sunday with Governor Kalraj Mishra meeting top officials to discuss the corona crisis. As Congress leaders in the state and outside spoke in unison to support him and lash out against the Centre and the BJP, the chief minister also held a separate review meeting to discuss the coronavirus crisis.
The Rajasthan Congress called off its plans to protest in front of the Raj Bhawan on Monday. "Tomorrow, Congress workers will protest in front of Raj Bhawans as part of 'Save Democracy-Save Constitution' agitation call. But in Rajasthan we will not do anything like that." state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasara said in a tweet.
Discussion on the pandemic, the economy and the bills to be taken up are listed as part of the agenda for the assembly session in the Gehlot-led cabinet's revised proposal sent late Saturday night, Congress sources said. The government, fighting for survival after Gehlot's now sacked deputy Sachin Pilot staged a rebellion with 18 other MLAs following a bitter and prolonged feud, has been pushing the governor for an opportunity to prove its numbers on the floor of the house. However, it is not immediately clear whether a floor test is part of the proposal.
Gehlot said in a late evening tweet that the opposition is usually the one making the demand and the ruling party is reluctant. "... here we are demanding but there is no reply." "I hope His Excellency the Governor is also a seasoned politician, amiable, tactful and the post he is holding has great dignity. It is a constitutional post ... He will order us soon, we will call the Assembly," he added.
The Congress has 107 MLAs in the 200-member assembly, including the 19 dissidents, and the BJP 72. The governor on Friday had sought clarifications on six points from the state government after Congress MLAs held a five-hour dharna on the lawns of the Raj Bhawan pressing for a Vidhan Sabha session.The dharna was called off, according to the Congress, after Mishra said he will abide by the Constitution but not act under any pressure. The governor had asked Gehlot to resubmit the proposals with the clarifications.
As the tussle over convening an assembly session continued, a Raj Bhawan statement said the governor noted that active COVID-19 cases have tripled in the state since July 1 and directed that serious efforts be made to control the spread of the disease. On Sunday, Rajasthan reported 1,132 new cases, pushing the state's infection tally to 36,430. A furious Congress accused him of resorting to the "worst kind of obstruction of democracy" by raising "superficial and motivated" queries on the Gehlot government's demand for convening a session of the state assembly.
In New Delhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said his party is "begging" for a floor test in the state assembly but the governor is not convening the House and "delaying" the trust vote allegedly at the behest of the Central government. He also cited Supreme Court judgements and several precedents with regard to the convening of the assembly session to assert that the governor cannot act of his own and can only do so with the advice of the Cabinet.
"Such superficial, clearly motivated, digressive and extraneous queries establish beyond doubt that they are coming from the highest authorities of the central government and being parroted without change as His Master's Voice from Raj Bhawan, Jaipur, Singhvi said at a virtual press conference. The Congress, which has announced that it will stage protests in front of Raj Bhawans across the country against what it called "misuse of powers" of governors to topple governments headed by opposition parties, also launched its nationwide digital campaign, "#SpeakUpForDemocracy".
Participating in the online campaign, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said democracy in the country will function in accordance with the Constitution. The people of the country will protect democracy and the Constitution by rejecting the BJP's conspiracy of deceit and deception," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
"Today, the entire country is worried because democracy is in danger. The #SpeakUpForDemocracy programme that has been run has its own message... common people will have to understand and those in the government will also have to understand on the other. The atmosphere in the country is worrying," Gehlot added. Various other leaders, including former Union minister Ajay Maken and the party's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, spoke as well.
"The BJP's conspiracy to kill democracy in broad daylight in Madhya Pradesh and now in Rajasthan has been exposed, Surjewala, who has been camping in Rajasthan, said. Reacting to the allegations, state BJP president Satish Poonia used a Hindi proverb to take a dig at the Congress — a cat going on a pilgrimage after eating 900 mice.
"The Congress is responsible for the political crisis in Rajasthan. It violated democratic values and insulted the Constitution for years. Will old sins be washed away through this 'SpeakUpForDemocracy' hypocrisy?" he asked. As the war of words escalates with the ruling party MLAs still holed up in a resort in Jaipur and no real information on the whereabouts of the dissident MLAs, the Supreme Court will on Monday hear the case of the political crisis in the state.
Voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be shut down, the apex court had said on Thursday. It refused to restrain the Rajasthan High Court from passing an order on a plea by Pilot and 18 other dissident Congress MLAs challenging the disqualification notice against them and said it would be subject to the outcome of petition before the apex court.
The apex court said the issue raised in the plea filed by the speaker required prolonged hearing as it involved larger questions related to the democracy and how it will survive.
On Friday, the Rajasthan High Court ordered maintaining status quo on the disqualification notice issued by the state assembly speaker to the 19 dissident Congress MLAs. No decision has been taken by the party on whether to challenge the High Court order of Friday ordering status quo on the disqualification notices issued to the 19 rebel party MLAs.
Sources added that a section within the party favours a withdrawal of the petition filed before the Supreme Court challenging the High Court's previous order requesting the speaker to defer action. A senior party leader said the decision has been left to the speaker, who has moved the SC, and the party's legal eagles handling the matter.
(With PTI inputs)