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Highlights July 2020


Political Churn in Rajasthan:

Rajasthan has witnessed political churning after Sachin Pilot broke ranks with the Congress party in Rajasthan. The events that have followed have put a question mark over the future of the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan.

The political churn in Rajasthan began after the  first week of July when Sachin Pilot – the then Deputy Chief Minister in the Congress-led Rajasthan government and the chief of Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) – revolted against Ashok Gehlot, along with 18 other MLAs. These MLAs flew to Gurgaon and stayed in a hotel. They asserted that they had the support of 30 other MLAs and could topple the Gehlot government.

Even as Pilot repeatedly asserted that he will not join BJP and the BJP also refused to comment on the governmental crisis in Rajasthan, these MLAs refused to attend the two subsequent Congress Legislature Party meetings for which a whip had been issued. Pilot was then removed from the post of Deputy CM and PCC chief. The 19 MLAs were also served disqualification notices by the Rajasthan Speaker, CP Joshi. These MLAs maintained that they have not defied any whip, since a whip can only be issued if the assembly is in session.

While initially upbeat after having paraded 109 MLAs, the Gehlot camp saw successive disappointments in the court battle over the disqualification issue of MLAs, in both Rajasthan High Court and Supreme Court. When the disqualified MLAs filed a plea challenging the disqualification in the High Court, the Rajasthan government filed a plea in Supreme Court arguing that, under 10th Schedule the Speaker had powers to issue disqualification notice and these powers cannot be curbed prematurely by the High Court.

However, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to the Rajasthan government when it pronounced that the High Court can pass an order on the plea of disqualified MLAs, although this order will be subject to the Court order on the Rajasthan government petition before the Supreme Court.

Presently, this court battle is going on and nothing is conclusive. However, the Congress in Rajasthan appears to be on  shaky ground. While initially, Ashok Gehlot used utmost abusive language to target Pilot, he is now on a backfoot. The Gehlot camp, most recently, reached out to the Pilot camp asking them to leave the BJP-ruled Haryana, break off all communication with BJP and talk to the Congress.

The outcome of Rajasthan crisis will have far reaching implications. The Madhya Pradesh events surrounding the fall of Congress government, resonated in Rajasthan, and something similar might happen here. If the Gehlot government is unseated, the Maharashtra coalition, already facing difficulties, will be shaken to the core.

The LAC Stand-off

The ongoing LAC stand-off between India and China saw some progress in de-escalation after the first week of July. In most areas of the confrontation, including Galwan Valley, China had withdrawn few kilometers back as had India, leading to easing of tensions. However, three points continue to be contentious – Pangong Tso lake, Depsang Plains and Gogra-Hot Springs area. While there has been no escalation of tensions, yet China has refused to move back from its new positions. The Gogra-Hot Springs area is not such big point of contention. In Depsang Plains, India is being denied access to 5 patrolling points at a place called Y-junction or bottleneck which is about 18 km into Indian side of LAC – an issue raised officially by India during most recent talks with Chinese. Depsang is very important, as it is close to the DSDBO road and Daulat Beg Oldie airstrip near the Karakoram Pass.

While the deepest and firmest Chinese intrusion is in Depsang Plains, even Pangong Tso remains equally contentious. In our previous article, we had explained the nature of confrontation in Pangong Tso area – the most contentious, but without any violence having occurred till date. Here, China had confined India up to Finger 4, whereas India’s perception of the LAC in this area is up till Finger 8. While the area between Finger 4 and Finger 8 has always been contentious and disputed, yet India’s inability to patrol beyond Finger 4 shows that Chinese advancement had been – and continues to be – highly intrusive in this region. Therefore, India considers that China has come about 8 km (distance between the two Fingers) into the Indian side of LAC.

China’s refusal to move substantially back from the contentious points has led to strong statements from India, indicating that China has failed to respect the 1993 agreement and subsequent border agreements. Despite the intensive rounds of higher military-level talks and a round of Special Representatives talks, China continues to be recalcitrant and uncooperative as far as Pangong Tso and Depsang Plains are concerned.

Presently, the 5th round of military level talks took place on August 2nd, in an attempt to resolve the slowing of disengagement along Pangong Tso. In these talks, China suggest that there be “mutual and equal” pullback. However, since India had already pulled back several kilometers, India clearly conveyed its refusal to accept this unfair proposal. Any further pullback by India would mean abandonment of India’s historic military posts. Thus, there continues to be a deadlock. India now awaits China’s response, after which future course of action will be decided.

The entire process is likely to take longer. The key issue is the speed with which border infrastructure is being built by both sides. While in the past, both armies used to patrol up to their perceived LAC points with a lesser frequency of about once a month, in recent times, this frequency has increased due to better access and connectivity, thereby leading to natural and more frequent skirmishes.

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