The Bahujan Samaj Party’s appeal seeking a temporary freeze on the merger of its six former legislators with Rajasthan’s Congress government, has been dismissed by the High Court, which left the decision to the single bench hearing the case. The decision, expected on August 11, will have crucial implications for the Ashok Gehlot government, which is struggling to hold on to its majority in face of the rebellion by Sachin Pilot and his 18 loyalist MLAs. Mr Gehlot claims he has the support of 102 MLAs, one above the majority mark. If there is a freeze on the merger, Mr Gehlot’s numbers will drop and he will have a tougher fight on his hands in case of a trust vote.
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Without the former BSP men, Ashok Gehlot’s numbers will drop from 102 to 96. The BJP has 72 MLAs. With the rebel camp and three independents MLAs, the numbers of the other side will touch 97. The halfway mark in the assembly will also come down to 97 from the current 101.
The BSP and the BJP had gone to court challenging the Speaker’s decision in September 2019 allowing the merger of the six BSP MLAs with the Congress.
The parties had demanded a stay on the participation of the six MLAs in the house proceedings — crucial if the Ashok Gehlot government has to take a trust vote.
A single-judge bench of the High Court, however, refused to stop the functioning of the BSP MLAs as Congress legislators even as an interim measure.
Yesterday, the court issued notice to Speaker CP Joshi after BSP national secretary Satish Mishra and BJP MLA Madan Dilawar appealed for an interim freeze.
The six BSP MLAs– Sandeep Yadav, Wajib Ali, Deepchand Kheria, Lakhan Meena, Jogendra Awana and Rajendra Gudha– had defected to the Congress in September last year, helping the Congress, which won 101 seats, raise its tally.
But following the rebellion of Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs, BSP chief Mayawati, who had been livid with the defection and was waiting for an opportune moment, said she wants to “teach the Ashok Gehlot government a lesson”.
“BSP could have gone to the court earlier too but we were looking for a time to teach the Congress party and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot a lesson. Now we have decided to go to the Court. We will not let this matter alone. We will go even to the Supreme Court,” Mayawati had said.
The rebel MLAs have also challenged the Speaker’s decision to disqualify them. They have contended that there is no ground for disqualification in case of internal dissent, especially when the assembly is not in session.
For now, the court has ordered a status quo. A disqualification of the rebels, who have broken ranks with the party, will bring down the numbers in the 200-member assembly and give Mr Gehlot a bigger margin.