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Congress mulling floor test in Rajasthan Assembly; CM Ashok Gehlot claims ‘full majority’

In a mini victory for Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs, the apex court on Thursday refused to interfere with the Rajasthan High Court hearing the plea of the dissident Congress legislators on Friday, saying that ‘the voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed’.

SNS | New Delhi |

After the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Rajasthan Speaker’s petition to interfere in the High Court’s order to defer anti-defection proceedings against former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel MLAs, the Congress is contemplating to go in for a floor test in the Assembly to establish its majority.

“Congress has a majority in the state and we have no doubt about it… we have 15 to 20 MLAs more than the opposition,” said party’s special observer for the state, Ajay Maken yesterday.

Addressing a press conference, he said that the “battle of Rajasthan is a political one and not legal”, while claiming that “these days, we don’t expect a judgement favourable for us”.

Maken said that the state government headed by Ashok Gehlot may seek a floor test as there are two views in the party, with one holding that the party should wait for the High Court judgement but the other group wanting to go for a floor test, as if it proves its majority, no one can shake it for the next six months.

“Even the BJP is not demanding a floor test,” he said, while slamming the Pilot camp for saying that the Gehlot government has lost its majority.

Maken said that the party has been repeatedly appealing to the Pilot camp to attend the CLP meet “but they are hobnobbing with the BJP”. “The raids on the Chief Minister’s brother proves this and the hospitality being taken in Haryana is a witness to their playing into the BJP’s hands.”

The Congress leader also said that the leaked audio clips of a Union Minister also shows that the BJP has a hand in the Rajasthan crisis.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan Chief Minister Shok Gehlot asserted that he enjoys a full majority in the Assembly.

Addressing the media here, he said: “We have a majority and will call a session soon as the Congress MLAs are standing together.”

On the Pilot camp going to court, he said, “Those who went to court have committed a mistake. The court case has no relation to anti-defection law. It is connected to the fact that we called two CLP (Congress Legislature Party) meetings so that those who had gone can come back, but they did not come.

“It seemed that they had intentions of parting ways. Our Chief Whip filed a petition in this regard. In fact, a Speaker can issue notice, call them and talk to them. The debate hovers around this subject and has no relation with the anti-defection act.”

Gehlot also claimed that the rebel MLAs have been held hostage.

“Those who have been held hostage, and are under (the eye of) bouncers… we hope that when they come back, they will vote with us. We have a full majority even without them. On the same basis, we will go to the house and prove our majority.”

In a mini victory for Sachin Pilot and his loyalist MLAs, the apex court on Thursday refused to interfere with the Rajasthan High Court hearing the plea of the dissident Congress legislators on Friday, saying that “the voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed”.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi, had argued that the high court “cannot direct” the Speaker to extend the time to file replies to the anti-defection notices and the court was wrong as “it is not in it’s jurisdiction”.

On this, the Supreme Court questioned the grounds on which disqualification was sought.

To this, the Speaker’s counsel replied: “MLAs didn’t attend party meet; they were indulging in anti-party activities. They were in a Haryana hotel, incommunicado and sought floor test against their own party”.

The top court responded by asking if a person elected by people could not express his dissent.

Justice AK Mishra, without referring to the Rajasthan crisis said, “Assume a leader has lost the faith of persons. While remaining in party they cannot be disqualified. Then this will become a tool and no one can raise their voice. The voice of dissent in a democracy cannot be suppressed like this”.

The Supreme Court further observed that Speaker CP Joshi was only requested by the Rajasthan High Court to wait till July 24.

The top court concluded its hearing saying that the Rajasthan High Court can pass orders on rebel MLAs plea against disqualification notice from the Speaker.

Moving the Supreme Court against the Rajasthan High Court order on Wednesday, Speaker CP Joshi had warned that the rebels were “heading for a constitutional crisis”.

In a respite for the Sachin Pilot camp for the second time, the Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday asked the Assembly Speaker not to take any action against them till Friday when it will deliver its order on their petition.

The high court hearing began last Friday but was then adjourned till Monday and the Speaker was asked not to take any action against the petitioners till Tuesday.

After Sachin Pilot and the rebel MLAs gave the second CLP meeting a miss on July 14, the Congress announced the removal of Pilot as the Deputy Chief Minister as well as the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.

The Congress government is witnessing a major crisis after Sachin Pilot announced that the Gehlot government was in minority and claimed the support of 30 MLAs.