Speaker CP Joshi, who will be processing the merger request over the next few days, said the BSP lawmakers had met him in person to request the merger
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has inducted six Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) into the Indian National Congress to secure his government, setting up a huge row with Mayawati, who accused Gehlot's party of betrayal. Her party was supporting the Congress.
It is the second time that the Congress leader had been able to persuade lawmakers from Mayawati's party to switch over; the first was in 2009.
Late in the evening on September 16, the BSP's six lawmakers had handed over affidavits to state assembly speaker CP Joshi to merge the legislative party with the Congress. A formal announcement was made shortly before midnight.
But the deal between the six BSP lawmakers and Gehlot had been firmed up a few days later. At a quiet dinner hosted by Ashok Gehlot in the evening on September 14 that remained a secret till September 16.
That is why when the late evening announcement came, many Congress leaders were surprised that the party had been able to deliver on the plan. The BSP's state leadership was caught off guard.
"We only came to know when they met the Speaker," said DharamVir Singh Ashok, BSP state in-charge for Rajasthan.
Speaker CP Joshi, who will be processing the merger request over the next few days, said the BSP lawmakers had met him in person to request the merger. "Now the process will be done as per rules," said Joshi.
The six BSP MLAs are Joginder Singh Awana, Nadbai (Bharatpur); Deep Chand, Kishangarh Bas (Alwar); Rajendra Singh Gudha, Udaipurwati (Jhunjhunu); Lakhan Singh, Karauli (Karauli); Wajib Ali, Nagar (Bharatpur); and Sandeep Kumar, Tijara (Alwar).
Joginder Singh Awana said the BSP legislators had joined the Congress without any conditions in the interest of development in the state and their respective constituencies.
"It was important for all of us to join Congress and a unanimous decision was taken. The BSP was extending support to the Congress in assembly but on the other hand was fighting in Lok Sabha elections," said Awana. He added, now they will fight the upcoming local bodies and panchayat elections as one.
A senior Congress leader said all the BSP lawmakers were in talks with Gehlot. "The message was clear, the CM was looking after the interests of these MLAs. It is possible that they might be inducted in the cabinet," he said.
Sources say that Rashtriya Lok Dal legislator Subhash Garg, who is technical education minister in the Gehlot government, may also join the Congress.
The BSP MLAs coming in have put the Gehlot government in a comfort zone, raising the Congress tally to 106 in the 200-member house.
In April 2009, the Congress with 96 seats had emerged as the single largest party after the state polls. Gehlot formed the government with the support of the six BSP MLAs and four independents.
In 2009, again during Gehlot's tenure, six BSP MLAs had merged with the Congress. Three of them —Rajendra Gudha, Rajkumar Sharma and Murari Lal Meena— were made ministers. The other three Ramkesh Meena, Ramesh Meena and Giriraj Singh Malinga were made parliamentary secretaries.
Political analyst Narayan Bareth said the move is constitutionally right but ethically wrong. "This is a loss to the cause of Dalits. The sentiment of anti-defection law too loses its value - BJP did in Karnataka, Goa, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh etc. In Rajasthan merger has never been a trend but it seems now it has started," he said.
Bareth said Gehlot's influence both within the Congress and outside will now increase.BJP said the merger was planned by Gehlot as the Congress was facing infighting. "It shows rift between the Gehlot and state party chief Sachin Pilot. Usually, the Congress protests against other parties for such acts but are now themselves doing it," said BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek.
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