Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with Governor Kalraj Mishra at Raj Bhavan in Jaipur on Wednesday.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with Governor Kalraj Mishra at Raj Bhavan in Jaipur on Wednesday.

How long can the uncertainty continue in Rajasthan, with the Ashok Government in a state of suspension even as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the State, as it does other parts of the country? All energies of the Chief Minister are on ensuring his survival. Now well into its third week, the internal turmoil in the Congress Legislative Party, with the sacked Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot rebelling along with at least eight other MLAs, shows no signs of an early end. Regardless of the constitutional niceties each actor in the Rajasthan drama accuses the other of trampling upon, should the virtual absence of an active government persist at this time of the pandemic, the Governor Kalraj Mishra would be justified to call for a short spell of central rule. There will be show of sham outrage from Gehlot and his party but the truth is they will have no one to else to blame other than themselves for inviting the gubernatorial intervention. For, the refusal of the chief minister to commit himself to a one-line agenda for holding a floor-test for convening the Assembly session on short notice is the sole cause for the present standoff between him and the Raj Bhavan. Once the floor-test is listed as the first and only item as the agenda, Governor Mishra has said he would convene the session on short notice. Why is Gehlot dragging his feet? Because he is not sure of his numbers any more. Initially, when he had summons issued by a Special Police Cell to Pilot, who was still the Deputy Chief Minister, accusing him of sedition, of all the things, Gehlot had pressed for an early session to prove that he still enjoyed majority support. Since then, he has developed cold feet. He now l presses the Governor for an early session of the Assembly but without listing a floor-test on its agenda. It is not hard to fathom why. Because after the failure of the ploy to use the Speaker C P Joshi to disqualify the rebels on the untenable ground they had absented themselves from meeting of the Congress Legislative Party meeting, he would use the Assembly session to first disqualify the rebels before holding a floor test. Following the forfeiture of the membership of the rebels, the strength of the Assembly would stand accordingly reduced, making it easier for Gehlot to prove his majority. Belatedly, Gehlot’s troubles may have increased further with the BSP Supremo Mayawati threatening to challenge in the Supreme Court the claimed merger of her six-member group in the Assembly with the Congress Party. On their part, the six footloose MLAs who had made the best of the opportunity, helping Gehlot to reach the half-way-mark after the results had thrown a hung House, would be only too happy to gainfully exploit the current crisis. Meanwhile, Gehlot’s threat to convene the Assembly without the Governor’s sanction will only cause the latter to recommend the central intervention. Either way, the dice is loaded against the beleaguered Chief Minister. The least bad option for him is to call the Assembly for a floor-test—and a floor-test alone—and hope for the best.

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