Rajasthan governor Kalraj Mishra, the man of the hour, said he would follow constitutional norms to convene a session of the assembly, denied there was any pressure on him to not convene the assembly from the BJP, the party to which he belonged before becoming governor, and wondered why chief minister Ashok Gehlot was in a hurry to prove his majority on the floor of the House when no one had demanded that he do.
Mishra spoke to HT on a day when Raj Bhavan saw the unprecedented scenes of lawmakers staging a protest on its lawns. He said the CM wanted to meet him and said the MLAs would also come along.
“But when they staged a dharna in Raj Bhavan, shouted slogans, I had to be firm and told them “dabav ki rajniti nahin chalegi (politics of pressure won’t work)”.
Rajasthan has seen a political drama over the past fortnight with 19 Congress lawmakers, led by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, mounting a rebellion against the chief minister.
The launch of disqualification motions against them by the speaker has resulted in the battle reaching the courts with both the Rajasthan high court and the Supreme Court hearing cases related to this.
Mishra said that the Rajasthan “cabinet has not taken a formal decision on convening the session of the Rajasthan Assembly; an informal meeting was held authorising the chief minister to take a decision. Neither any specific date or agenda was mentioned in their (the state government’s ) communique.”
He added: “On July 23, the state government issued a letter inviting the assembly session at night with very short notice. Based on the merits in the paper, the Raj Bhavan examined and consulted by legal experts.”
Following this, Raj Bhavan sent a letter to the Parliamentary Affairs Department of the state government mentioning that the date on which the assembly session was to be convened was not mentioned , and that there was no mention of formal cabinet approval.
Meanwhile, Gehlot went public with his demand for a session and said he would not be responsible for his lawmakers picketing Raj Bhavan. Mishra said that he has never heard any chief minister give such a statement.
“I am duty-bound to take constitutional advise on any letter that comes from you. And the Indian Constitution has given me this power. You expressed your desire on July 23 to convene a Vidhan Sabha session but before I could consult experts, you went before the press saying you will not be responsible for the gherao of Raj Bhawan,” he wrote to the CM. He also asked in the letter if the Rajasthan government is “unable to protect the governor”.
Responding to the Congress allegation that he was under pressure from the top, Mishra said: “I am putting forth the constitutional position. You think there is any pressure?”
Mishra demanded to know the emergency for summoning the session that too during the pandemic. “Why? What is the urgency? What is the agenda?” Nothing was spelt out in the letter he received, Mishra said.
Commenting on the chief minister’s contention that he would prove his majority in the house, he said , ‘”Why? Who has demanded it?”
He added: “After all the session has to be summoned as per the rules of the house. A 21-day notice is needed. The agenda has to be spelt out.”
Raj Bhavan subsequently issued a statement reiterating many of these points — that the cabinet note did not mention a date or an agenda; that it did not have formal cabinet approval; and that a 21-day notice is needed to call a session.
The statement also asked for clarity on details of the cases in the Supreme Court and the Rajasthan high court “pertaining to some MLAs”, and information on how the session will be held in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The statement directed the state government to “ensure the freedom and free movement to and from the assembly of MLAs” , perhaps a reference to most of them being lodged in hotels. Finally, it asked: “If the government indeed has a majority, what is the need to call a session to prove that majority?”
(with Sachin Saini in Jaipur)