The Rajasthan government was recently thrown into a state of turmoil, that had on Tuesday led to the removal of Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot from his position. He has also been removed from his leadership position with the party.
The controversy began after Chief Minister Gehlot alleged that the BJP was attempting to 'bribe' Congress MLAs and the Police Special Operation Group (SOG) sent a notice to Pilot to record his statement in the case registered for the same. While a notice was also sent to Gehlot and other officials, this seems to have been the catalyst for the rift within the party.
After the developments, on Tuesday evening Chief Minister Gehlot is holding a Cabinet meeting, followed by a Council of Ministers meeting.
Against this backdrop, the BJP has been demanding that the Congress Chief Minister undertake a floor test. Several BJP leaders have opined that Gehlot no longer has the required numbers. "Prove majority in a floor test first and then go for a cabinet reshuffle. The result of the political fight is out," Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria told reporters.
As the Free Press Journal's Sangeeta Pranvendra reported earlier on Tuesday, with a meeting being held today, Ministers could hand over their resignations to the Chief Minister before the expansion and/or reshuffle. The expansion incidentally is likely to be held on 16 July.
The demand for a floor test has also reportedly been echoed by those supporting Sachin Pilot.
Some of the MLAs belonging to the Sachin Pilot camp too have demanded a floor test, while contesting the rival Gehlot camp's claim of having the support of 109 legislators in the 200-member House.
But does Gehlot really have any reason for concern?
On Sunday, Sachin Pilot had said that he had the support of 30 MLAs, stating that the Ashok Gehlot government in the state was now in a minority. The Chief Minister however had claimed that he had the requisite numbers to head the state government.
This claim appears to be backed up by a report on Tuesday that quoted sources and a short video clip to say that around 102 MLAs had unanimously demanded that Sachin Pilot be removed from the party. This was at the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting in Jaipur on Tuesday. Sources also said that twenty MLAs, including Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, did not attend the CLP meeting held at the residence of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
If we look at the numbers, at present the Congress has 107 seats in the 200 seat Assembly. The BJP comes second with 72 seats while the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has three seats, and both the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) have two seats each and the Rashtriya Lok Dal has one seat. There are also 13 Independents.
While the BTP has issued a whip to its legislators, asking them to remain neutral and not align either with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot or his deputy Sachin Pilot, the CPI(M) has remained vague. While Congress leaders consider CPI(M) MLAs as being their supporters, a leader of the Left party said that the decision to support the Gehlot government, if required, will be taken and declared later.
But keeping all this in mind, even if one assumes that around 25 MLAs belonging to the Gehlot camp do not vote or participate, it seems improbable that the Congress government will fall. With no other allied party having made any statements, save the BTP, it is likely that the Congress allies will remain with the party.
Reports suggest that the Congress is likely to make an attempt to make the rebel MLAs return to the fold. If that fails, they could be disqualified by the party, which in turn would reduce the total strength of the house and thus the half-way mark needed to retain office.
If the MLAs are indeed disqualified, the half-way mark could drop to the early 90s -- a number that Gehlot would in all likelihood clear easily.