The Congress today took action against its senior leader Sachin Pilot, who rebelled over the week-end, bringing the government of Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan to the brink of collapse. The Congress government is likely to have the support of 100 MLAs, below the majority mark in the 200-member assembly. Today, the Congress stripped the Deputy Chief Minister of all posts in the government and the party. Two ministers supporting him were also dropped from the government, but neither Mr Pilot, not his supporters were expelled from the party.
Mr Pilot is said to have the support of 17 MLAs, including himself and three Independents. This would mean that if the 17 MLAs are expelled, then under the rules of parliament, they can form an independent block and even join the BJP and vote against the government during a trust vote in the assembly.
But if the party disqualifies them ahead of a trust vote, it would bring down the majority mark, which currently stands at 101.
If the 17 rebel MLAs are to be disqualified under the anti-defection law, the halfway mark will slip to 92.
The Congress alone is expected to have at least 90 MLAs and with the support of two CPM MLAs, Mr Gehlot can win the trust vote.
In this situation, he would not need the support of any of the 10 Independent MLAs or the two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal Party, which has withdrawn support to the Congress.
The Congress has already accused Mr Pilot and the MLAs supporting him of anti-party activities, while claiming its “doors are open for discussion”.
Persons indulging in anti-party activities can be disqualified by Speaker under the Anti-Defection law.
Under the rules, the Legislative party leader has to file a complaint with the Speaker for initiating disqualification proceedings. A notice is issued to the MLAs, who are given time to file their response. The final decision belongs to the Speaker.
While this option may ensure the survival of the Ashok GEhlot government for now, it is likely to leave the government with a wafer-thin majority and leave it open to future upsets.
The BJP, which is keeping a keen eye on the proceedings, is already talking of a trust vote. Mr Pilot yesterday claimed to have the support of 30 MLAs, and said Mr Gehlot’s government is in minority.
The Congress initially claimed to have the support of 109 MLAs, and then 107. Its meeting called yesterday was attended by 106 MLAs. Late last night, the BTP said it would not support the government or the BJP.
Today, three more Congress MLAs went missing from the Congress ranks.
In the evening, Mr Pilot thanked his supporters with a tweet.
My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all those who have come out in my support today.
— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) July 14, 2020
The 42-year-old, who has said very little so far, is expected to address the media at 10 am.