Was merger of BSP MLAs into Rajasthan Congress legal? High Court issues notice

If there's a party facing a greater upheaval than the Congress in Rajasthan, it is probably the Bahujan Samaj Party. The party had lost six MLAs to the Congress last year, after a 'merger' that had at the time been accepted by the Speaker.

The merger of the BSP MLAs with the Congress was a boost for the Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government as the tally of the ruling party increased to 107 in the 200-member House.

Incidentally, the BJP has 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 BSP Chief Mayawati had cried foul over the merger, it is only now that legal measures have been taken. A few days earlier, on Jul 26, the BSP had issued a whip to these six MLAs, telling them to vote against the Congress in case of a floor test. Terming the merger illegal, it had also refused to accept the same.

"If they don't do so, their party membership will be cancelled," BSP Chief Mayawati had said.

The BJP too has now gotten involved, with both claiming that since the BSP is a national party, it could not merge only at a state level. BJP's Madan Dilawar had filed a complaint before Speaker C P Joshi in March this year against the merger, which the Speaker rejected on July 24. Dilawar then filed a writ petition in the high court, challenging the Speaker's decision.

The Rajasthan High Court on Thursday issued notices to the speaker and secretary of the state legislative assembly and six MLAs, who contested elections on BSP tickets and then defected to the Congress.

The court issued the notices while hearing the writ petitions filed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and BJP MLA Madan Dilawar against the six lawmakers defecting to the Congress. The bench of Justice Mahendra Kumar Goyal issued the notices while hearing the petitions. Separate notices have been issued on the petitions.

Advocate Dinesh Garg had moved a petition, on behalf of BSP's national general secretary Satish Chandra Mishra, challenging the merger of the MLAs. Notably, BJP MLA Madan Dilawar had also moved two petitions in the High Court against the merger.

The next hearing in the matter is on August 11.

An earlier report had quoted Mayawati as saying that the party had been bidding its time for a suitable opportunity to "teach the Congress party and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot a lesson".

She said the party was even willing to go to the Supreme Court, and reportedly, the BSP petition indicates that Mayawati is willing to join forces with the BJP to get back at the Congress.

This however raises questions about whether Chief Minister Gehlot will be able to get through a floor test if required. Without the BSP MLAs and those who are part of the Sachin Pilot camp, the government may possibly find itself reduced to a minority.

(With inputs from agencies)

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