The Rajasthan high court said today it would pronounce its judgment on Sachin Pilot and 18 other dissident Congress MLAs’ writ petition that challenged their disqualification on 24 July. The court asked the speaker to take no action against the MLAs until then.
Speaker CP Joshi had served the MLAs disqualification notices on a complaint of the Indian National Congress (INC). The party had alleged these MLAs defied a whip to attend two legislature party meetings last week on Monday and Tuesday.
In its complaint to the speaker, the INC had sought action under the 10th Schedule of the constitution against Pilot and the MLAs supporting him. The Pilot camp, however, argues that a party whip applies only when the assembly is in session.
While he has maintained he is not joining the BJP, the INC sacked Sachin Pilot as deputy chief minister last month. The party removed him also as head of the Rajasthan Congress. It appointed Govind Singh Dotasra as the new head of the state unit.
Even as the court hearing on the Rajsthan imbroglio was on, the INC held another legislature party meeting. The venue was the luxury resort where all its MLAs have been cloistered since the beginning of the crisis. Once again, team Pilot was missing.
“Neither Congress nor BJP want the assembly to be dissolved and election to take place… Entire country is watching the way you’re fighting. Your respect has increased manifold. It’s not something ordinary. All of you have phones, there’s no pressure on anyone,” Chief Minister Gehlot said at the CLP meet.
Gehlot, who said on TV he had not been on talking terms with his former deputy for the past 18 months, has been trenchant in his criticism of Sachin Pilot. The chief minister called Pilot “nikamma (worthless) and nakara (good for nothing)”. Repeating his earlier charge, he said Pilot had been trying to dislodge his government.
Gehlot asserted the INC had held some MLAs of the Pilot camp, with their phones seized, captive. The Rajasthan chief minister added that the dissident legislators had been “calling us and crying over the phone while explaining their ordeal”.
When the drama began, Sachin Pilot had claimed the support of 30 MLAs. However, that number now stands at 18. Gehlot claims the support of over 100 MLAs. In the 200-member assembly, 101 is the majority mark. With 72 MLAs, the BJP has been watching the developments from the sidelines.