Repeal farm laws, apologise to farmers: Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot to Centre 

Express News Service

JAIPUR: The six former BSP MLAs, who had switched sides and joined the ruling Congress two years ago, are now the focus of political attention in Rajasthan. 

On the one hand, they have to respond to the notice issued by the Supreme Court which asked them to reply on their move under the anti-defection law. Also, the MLAs are believed to be lobbying hard demanding that at least two of them be given ministerial berths. This is likely to complicate the upcoming reshuffle in the Gehlot cabinet expected to happen in the near future. 

The former BSP legislators in question – Sandeep Yadav, Wajib Ali, Deepchand Kheria, Lakhan Meena, Jogendra Awana, and Rajendra Gudha – had backed the state government when former Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot had rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot last year. According to sources, they will meet the Congress high command on Friday to make it clear that they won’t back the government if Cabinet expansion doesn’t take place. 

Memberships of the MLAs, who defected to the Congress in 2019, were challenged before the Rajasthan High Court and then in the Supreme Court after the Sachin Pilot revolt last year. Their memberships were challenged by the BSP and later by the BJP under provisions of the anti-defection law. Ahead of the trust vote in the Rajasthan Assembly last year, the BSP had issued a whip to its former legislators to vote against the Congress and had warned them of disqualification under para 2(1)(b) of the tenth schedule of the Constitution. 

The Rajasthan HC on August 24, 2020, had dismissed the BSP’s plea challenging Speaker CP Joshi’s order dated September 18, 2019, whereby he approved the merger of the 6 BSP MLAs into the Congress Legislative Party. However, the HC gave the BSP the liberty to file a petition with the Speaker seeking action against the defection of Yadav, Ali, Kheria, Meena, Awana, and Gudha.

This verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court, which recently asked these legislators to file their final replies. Officially, four out of six ex-BSP MLAs claimed they are in Delhi to discuss with senior lawyers and seek their opinion on how to present their cases. They claimed they are in Delhi to seek ‘legal and political support to save their memberships in the state assembly. 

Beyond the tussle over their defection, the ex-BSP MLAs are clearly unhappy over the delay in cabinet expansion and political appointments. One of the MLAs Sandeep Yadav who is also camping in  Delhi since Wednesday night told the media, “We need to save our membership as MLAs at any cost for that purpose we are open to meeting Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati, or even with Amit Shah, whoever help to save our membership we will support them”. 

While CM Gehlot has refused to reshuffle his Cabinet so far, the recent meeting between Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has ignited a big buzz about major changes in the state. The ex- BSP MLAs are said to be demanding at least 2 ministerial berths when the cabinet is reshuffled. They are likely to meet AICC General Secretaries Ajay Maken and KC Venugopal in the next few days to press for their demands.   

With 21 ministers, the Gehlot cabinet can have another 9 ministers as the upper cap is 30 in the state. For the 9 vacant spots, the Pilot camp is already demanding 4 berths and some of the 13 Independent MLAs who have been supporting the Gehlot government will also need to be accommodated. The demand for ministerial berths from the ex-BSP MLAs is all set to make the situation more complicated for the Congress which is already facing a huge turmoil in Punjab and can hardly afford to create another crisis in Rajasthan.