The Congress government in Rajasthan has only a narrow lead if rebel Sachin Pilot teams up with the BJP to challenge its rule. A difference of only five makes team Pilot’s legal challenge to disqualification notices even more significant.
If Sachin Pilot and 18 other rebel MLAs win the case, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot can be in some trouble. If they stand disqualified, the majority mark will come down.
Mr Gehlot claims the support of 102 MLAs in the 200-member assembly – just one more than the majority mark. Two MLAs of the regional Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP) made a big difference in the close race by coming out in the Chief Minister’s support last week.
Around 87 Congress MLAs are believed to be still with the government, and are currently at a resort in Jaipur, closely guarded by Mr Gehlot. Through the weekend, reports and photos emerged of the MLAs watching movies, playing board games, learning cooking and enjoying singalongs.
Team Pilot has 19 MLAs. The BJP has 72. Along with the party of former BJP MLA Hanuman Beniwal and three independent members facing an investigation ordered by the state government, the rebel camp has 97 members.
That can change if the rebels are disqualified after a court decision. Mr Gehlot’s opponents in the assembly will drop to 78 and the majority mark will be 92.
After a long-running feud with the Chief Minister, Mr Pilot, then Deputy Chief Minister, broke ranks with the Congress after being served summons to answer questions in an investigation ordered by Mr Gehlot into alleged bribing of Congress MLAs during last month’s Rajya Sabha election.
Mr Gehlot insists he has evidence of his former deputy’s role in deal-making to draw MLAs away from the Congress for a coup. Mr Pilot has repeatedly rubbished the claims and asserted that he is not joining the BJP.