Congress did not engineer BSP MLAs’ merger, says Gehlot
The BSP MLAs, who were in touch with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for several days, handed over a letter informing of their legislature party’s merger with the Congress to Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi around midnight. Mr. Joshi accepted the communiqué and allowed the BSP members’ move.
The MLAs were earlier supporting the Congress from outside after the party won 100 seats and its ally, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, won one seat. One of them, Rajendra Gudha ((Udaipurwati), said they had taken the decision to ensure the “stability of the government” and work for the development of the State.
The other 5 MLAs are Jogendra Singh Awana (Nadbai), Wajib Ali (Nagar), Lakhan Singh (Karauli), Sandeep Yadav (Tijara) and Deepchand (Kishangarh Bas).
The MLAs’ action made BSP supremo Mayawati come out with strong words against the Congress. She alleged a betrayal of the BSP movement and accused the “untrustworthy” Congress of being anti-SC, anti-ST and anti-OBC.
Reacting to this, Mr. Gehlot said the Congress had not managed the defection in any way. “Mayawati Ji’s reaction is natural… but it is a conscious decision of the BSP MLAs in the interest of the State and the electorate”.
On the sidelines of a function, he said, “She should realise that her party is neither in government nor do they have a possibility to form a government in Rajasthan.” There was “no horse-trading” and the MLAs had taken a unanimous decision for the sake of political stability, so that “we can work together for development of the State.”
The defection, which will not incur any disqualification because of more than two-thirds — in this instance the entire bloc — of the BSP MLAs switching over to the Congress, has been perceived as a politically astute move of Mr. Gehlot. It is stated that the Chief Minister had not only strengthened his party’s position in the Assembly, but also improved its prospects in the upcoming local body and panchayat polls as well as by-elections to two Assembly seats.
There were speculations that the BJP was trying to lure the BSP and Independent MLAs in a bid to repeat a Karnataka-type upheaval in Rajasthan. Mr. Gehlot said he was told that the BJP was offering up to ₹25 crore each to the Assembly members. “From where the BJP is getting so much money? They can go to any extent for their game plans.”
After Tuesday’s merger, a Cabinet reshuffle may be carried out shortly to appoint some of the BSP MLAs as Ministers. During Mr. Gehlot’s earlier tenure in 2008-13, six BSP MLAs had defected to the Congress, which was five short of a clear majority in the House. Mr. Gudha is the only sitting MLA who was among the BSP members to join the Congress in 2009, taking its tally to 102.
The Congress also enjoys the outside support of 12 of the 13 Independent MLAs. Two seats are vacant because Mandawa MLA Narendra Khichar and Khinvsar MLA Hanuman Beniwal have been elected to the Lok Sabha in this year general election.