Chief minister Ashok Gehlot rode a bus with Congress lawmakers to Raj Bhavan on Friday afternoon to persuade Governor Kalraj Mishra to convene the Rajasthan assembly by Monday to let him face a trust vote. Gehlot’s meeting with the governor came moments after he accused Raj Bhavan of holding back orders to convene the assembly by Monday to let him prove his majority in the 200-member assembly.
Gehlot, who has been fighting off a rebellion led by his former deputy Sachin Pilot for weeks, wants to clear the floor test before Pilot’s camp or the rival Bharatiya Janata Party is able to deplete the ruling party’s numbers. He told reporters before leaving for Raj Bhavan that he had requested Kalraj Mishra to convene the assembly session at their 20-minute meeting on Thursday, and followed up with a phone conversation.
But the governor was under pressure from the top, he said, a reference to the BJP-led central government.
As four buses – Gehlot was sitting in one of them – drove into Raj Bhavan, Transport Minister Pratap Singh told reporters what Gehlot would tell Kalraj Mishra.
“We have the majority… the government has the support of 109 MLAs,” Pratap Singh said.
This is the first time that the Ashok Gehlot’s team has put a number on the lawmakers that it expects to support the ruling government in the assembly.
Congress MLAs are camping at Raj Bhavan to insist that governor summons the Rajasthan Assembly
Gehlot’s meeting with the governor – lawmakers in tow – was designed to message that he was running out of patience, and time and would keep the spotlight on Raj Bhavan.
As Gehlot emerged from his meeting with the governor – his second in 24 hours – scores of lawmakers who had been waiting in Raj Bhavan’s lawns raised slogans, pledging to fight for justice. For now, that translates into an early assembly session.
It is not clear if the Congress’ count of 109 MLAs includes some of the 18 MLAs of Pilot’s camp who have been camping in Gurugram hotels. Gehlot did yesterday claim that some of them wanted to back him but weren’t allowed to leave by bouncers at the hotel.
An independent assessment of the breakup of the 200-member Rajasthan assembly had earlier indicated that the Gehlot camp has 101 legislators and the Pilot camp, 22 including 19 Congress rebels and three independents.
The Opposition has 75 MLAs, including 72 of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and three of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party.
Before the Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot feud blew up earlier this month, the Congress government had the support of 125 lawmakers in the assembly. The immediate trigger for the revolt was a communication from the police that asked Sachin Pilot, then deputy chief minister, to give his statement on attempts to influence lawmakers in last month’s Rajya Sabha elections.
Gehlot has insisted that it had been building up for months, even revealing that he had Pilot hadn’t been on talking terms for 18 months. For the last six months, Gehlot alleged, Pilot’s camp had been trying to lure Congress MLAs in a conspiracy that had originated in the Bharatiya Janata Party.