Rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot and his group of 18 MLAs on Friday got a breather until Tuesday evening from the Rajasthan High Court which is hearing a petition challenging their proposed expulsion from the Assembly under the anti-defection law.
The court reasoned that the 2-day notice served on them by Speaker C P Joshi was too short a period and wanted the MLAs be given at least seven days to respond, to save their membership of the House. They had rushed to the High Court on Thursday seeking to either quash the Speaker's notices or obtain a stay until the court disposes of the matter.
While adjourning the case to Monday, the High Court hoped that no adversarial action will be taken by the Speaker at least until Tuesday.The Speaker, who had extended the timeline for response from 2 PM to 5 PM, quickly extended it further to 5.30 PM on Tuesday that would meet the court’s requirement of seven days.
The hearing will resume on Monday at 10 AM, 30 minutes ahead of the regular sittings of the court.Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the Speaker, argued that the court cannot interfere with the Speaker's actions as he is the absolute authority in the House.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Sachin Pilot faction, asserted that the petitioner had raised his voice in the Congress Party's central governing body against the "dictatorship" of Chief Minister Gehlot. He said this was in exercise of his right to freedom of speech and did not amount to "defection." He argued that neither Pilot, nor any of his associate MLAs, have left the party or joined any other formation to be accused of "anti-party activities," as alleged in the Speaker's notice.He asserted that the party whip applies only when the Assembly is in session and any act outside the House is not violative of the anti-defection law.
Salve said the disqualification notices are an attempt to stifle internal discussions within a party. "Where is the question of the MLAs defying the whip to attend the CLP meeting? A whip is not applicable to meetings at homes and hotels; it only applies to proceedings within House," he affirmed.
BJP chides Beniwal over Raje remark
SANGEETA PRANVENDRA / Jaipur
After his tweet against former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Nagaur MP and member of NDA Hanuman Beniwal has been reprimanded by BJP National President JP Nadda, Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan Assembly Gulab Chand Kataria and BJP state president Satish Poonia. They told Beniwal to respect the sanctity of coalition and not make such comments about their leader.
"I spoke to Beniwal and told him that his behaviour was not in accordance to the spirit of coalition. He expressed regret and told me that a member of his staff had put out the said tweet," said Kataria to the press at Jaipur.
BJP state president Satish Poonia informed The Free Press Journal: "Our national president JP Nadda has spoken to Beniwal on the issue and expressed his displeasure. I have also spoken to him and advised him that Vasundhara Raje is a senior and respected leader of our party and it is not fair to draw her into the political game that is being played out by the Congress."
BJP has not contested on Nagaur Parliamentary seat leaving it for Beniwal who contested as a candidate of Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) founded by him. It is believe that the seat was left uncontested on the behest of some senior RSS leaders.
RLP had contested independently in the assembly elections held prior to Parliamentary elections and won three seats in the 200 house assembly.
Beniwal who was earlier with BJP has been a vicious critic of Raje and spares no opportunity to take on with the former chief minister.
In Raj drama, BJP faces dilemma
SANGEETA PRANVENDRA / Jaipur
On the one hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces the challenge of defending itself from the allegations levelled against it by the Congress, on the other, the saffron party is now obliged to stand behind Congress rebel Sachin Pilot just as it had been doing since Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot came forth and declared that efforts were on to topple his government in Rajasthan.
Even at the press conference held in Jaipur at the BJP headquarters, senior leader including state president Satish Poonia, leader of opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, and deputy leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore shared eye contact as if trying to gauge who would be best suited to reply a question posed to them.
Then there is the job of reining in its cyber media forces. In an attempt to take on the incumbent chief minister, Ashok Gehlot, through supporting Sachin Pilot, senior leaders had been responding to tweets by Pilot, Vishvendra Singh and others from Pilot camp. But the forces are now behaving like an uncontrolled nuclear fission.
Practically every leader is tweeting in support of Pilot and his supporters, which is serving to give an impression that they stand behind the rebel faction at all cost. Insiders say that there is now trepidation within several factions of state leaders.
But there is also feeling of despondency as BJP faces a catch 22 situation; it cannot pull back from the public stand it has adopted viz a viz Pilot and his rebel faction. This they feel will reflect poorly on them among its cadre. At the same time being associated also gives rise to talk about being involved in the plans to topple the government.