By Lokpal Sethi in Jaipur
Forthcoming Budget Session of the State Assembly would prove a litmus test for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Congress government.Having a wafer thin majority of only two, identical number its legislators—Mahipal Maderna and Malkhan Singh- currently in jail for their alleged involvement in Bhanwari Devi murder case, would not be able attend the session, beginning from February 27.As this was not enough, Speaker Deepender Singh Shekhawat, during the session, is expected to give his ruling on the merger of six member BSP legislature party in Congress, which was challenged by State under the Anti Defection Law.
As CBI is yet to file its chargesheet in Bhanwari Devi Case, sacked ministers Maderna and Malkhan Singh, could not seek bail. If they want to attend the Assembly session, they have to approach the court for the same. But so far non of them have filed any petition in this regard.Though Congress party had suspended both the MLAs from the party, they are still very much member of its legislative wing as only Congress Legislature Party or its leader, Gehlot could suspend them from it. But this is unlikely to happen as it would reduce the number of Congress legislatures in 200 member Assembly. Though about a dozen independent legislators most of the time sided with the ruling party, this could be taken in guaranteed in the changing political scenario and fast approaching of Assembly elections.
In the last Assembly elections, Congress had won 96 seats and was short of five to form the government. At that time eight independents, including some rebels, pledged their support to Congress to felicitate Gehlot to form his government.In early 2009 and just before the Lok Sabha elections, six member BSP legislature party announced its merger with the Congress. All of them were rewarded by making them ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries.The State unit of the party had challenged this mergers and hearing in this regard is going on with Speaker of the Assembly for the past two and half years. Only in last week, speaker Shekhawat said that he would pronounce his decision in the Budget Session of the Assembly.
Now Gehlot and his party colleagues are keeping their fingers crossed, though they are confident that ruling would go in their favour. In another interesting development, all the six former BSP legislators are not happy with Gehlot as they were feeling ignored in running the government. Some of them are hoping that Speaker would annul the merger as they are not sure of getting the Congress party ticket in the coming Assembly elections. Opposition BJP, with its fire brand leader and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, is gearing up to launch an effective attack on the ruling party. The Bhanwari Devi sex scandal and Gopalgarh police firing incidents would provide enough fodder to BJP to nail down the ruling party during the session. As Jats and Muslims within Congress party are not happy with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his government , it would be interesting to see that whether legislators of these two categories of Congress party, would come forward to defend the government.
The way case against Maderna was build up, most of the Jat leaders feels that since Gehlot never liked Jats, he was behind the whole episode to see the political fall of Maderna. Two Jat families—Madernas and Mirdhas—are dominating the politics of western Rajasthan for the past four decades. They never allowed others to enter into their domain. Jat of Congress party are now of the firm view that,Gehlot was systematically engaged in marginalising this Jat leadership to get his foothold in the area. He is trying to promote Jats of his brand to dislodge the established Jat leadership. Leaders of about nine per cent Muslims in the State are annoyed with Gehlot and his government on many counts. Burning of an ASI, Phool Mohammad in Sawai Madhopur, which lent out them their feelings of the commodity against Gehlot. They were sure that despite a open and shut case, Gehlot did not took any action against the culprits, who belong to influential Meena community. Its leader Kirori Lal Meena had threatened to launch an agitation if any one from his community was implicated in this case. As this was not enough September killing of ten Meo Muslims in Bharatpur in police firing resulted in angry demonstrations in the State capital by several Muslim bodies. No Muslim Congress leader dared to come forward to defend the government. Contrary, many of them advised the social Muslim bodies to continue their tirade against the government. As all the three issues are likely to dominate the proceedings of the Budget Session, Gehlot is worried how to defend him and his government. In the past, his senior minister Shanti Dhariwal remained in forefront to defend the government. But now he is also not happy with his boss. During reshuffle of his ministry in December, Gehlot had taken away Home Department from him.This had left Dhariwal sulking.There is in non in Gehlot ministry, who could match Dhariwal in defending the government and attacking the Opposition. Now Gehlot, who is not an ace parliamentarian, would have no option but to defend him and his government single handedly.