Rajasthan

BJP all the way

Print edition : April 18, 2014

BJP candidate Sanwarlal Jat presents a memento to Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje at a public meeting in Ajmer on March 26. Photo: PTI



THE outcome of the elections to the parliamentary seats from Rajasthan, to be held in two phases on April 17 and 24, is not going to be vastly different from the results of the Assembly elections in December 2013. Of the 25 seats, seven are reserved—four for the Scheduled Castes and three for the Scheduled Tribes.

The BJP, which swept the Assembly elections under the stewardship of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, winning 163 of the 200 seats, is expected to repeat its performance in the Lok Sabha elections, too. This has been more or less the trend in the State, where Assembly results have often mirrored the outcome of the preceding Lok Sabha elections. The additional reason why the BJP will do well is that the Vasundhara Raje government, being relatively new, will face negligible anti-incumbency effect. The Congress, which won 20 seats in 2009 against the BJP’s four, is now a demoralised unit and may win about four seats.

Controversies galore

What is interesting is that despite the overwhelming mood favouring the BJP, the State unit of the party has witnessed intriguing dissension in its ranks, with former Union Minister and MP from Darjeeling Jaswant Singh deciding to contest the Barmer seat as an independent. He was denied the ticket while the official BJP nominee, Colonel (retd) Sona Ram, is actually a former Congress legislator who was defeated by Jaswant Singh’s son Manavendra in the recent Assembly elections.

Barmer is going to be keenly watched as it will be a three-cornered contest. It is intriguing that in the case of Jaswant Singh, a combination of State and central leaderships apparently essayed a role in denying him the nomination. The reason given was that a Jat candidate was needed; Jaswant Singh is a Rajput. The matter went public with leaders such as Sushma Swaraj expressing her unhappiness over the way things were handled and Arun Jaitley sermonising on how “leaders should learn to accept no after being showered with privileges”. Needless to add, Jaswant Singh, who had not yet made up his mind to contest, became even more resolute and responded by saying that even a “peon has a better place, and is treated in a better way, than the place he had in the BJP”.

Jaswant Singh, who has represented Jodhpur and Chittorgarh in the past, accused Vasundhara Raje and BJP president Rajnath Singh of betraying him. Barmer is the largest parliamentary constituency in the State. All the eight MLAs in this constituency are from the BJP and have sworn their allegiance to Jaswant Singh. While Jaswant Singh quit the BJP, Buta Singh left the Congress to join the BJP and is now the party’s nominee for the Jalore (reserved) seat.

At Sikar, too, the BJP is facing a problem, with three-time MP and former Rural Development Minister Subhash Maharia deciding to contest as an independent after being denied the ticket, which, on the recommendation of yoga guru Baba Ramdev, went to one Swami Sumedhanand, a political nonentity from Rohtak. All the six BJP legislators in Sikar objected to his nomination. There were violent protests on the day he filed his nomination but later the protesters were placated by the Chief Minister. Apparently, two candidates of the BJP, one in Sikar and the other in Alwar, are the unofficial nominees of Baba Ramdev and both of them are from Haryana. Like the BJP nominee, the Congress nominee too is a political greenhorn—a former bureaucrat with little experience in fighting elections.

In fact, Sikar may see a multi-cornered contest with a BJP rebel, a Congress rebel, official party nominees, and four-time MLA of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Amra Ram in the fray. Unlike the other candidates, Amra Ram, who is the president of the All India Kisan Sabha, has a history of leading and participating in successful farmer agitations in the Sikar-Ganganagar area.

The other constituency to watch out for is Dausa, where it is a battle between two brothers, both former Directors General of Police (DGPs): Namo Narain Meena, a sitting MP from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur and Minister in the UPA government, is pitted against his younger brother, Harish Meena. Interestingly, Kirori Lal Meena, the sitting MP (independent) from Dausa, wanted his younger brother, Jagmohan Meena, to be given the Congress ticket, which created some resentment in the local unit there. The choice of the Congress nominee for Tonk, cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin, was met with resistance as the party was accused of ignoring the claims of the local unit. At Churu, too, the local Congress unit has been up in arms against the official nominee, calling him an agent of the BJP.

The BJP also has its share of celebrity nominees. Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Rathore will taken on former Pradesh Congress Committee chief and senior All India Congress Committee member C.P. Joshi in Jaipur Rural. Ajmer is another seat to watch out for as here the newly inducted PCC chief and MP Sachin Pilot is pitted against State Cabinet Minister Sanwarlal Jat. In the Assembly elections, the Congress did not win a single seat from Ajmer. It was learnt that the BJP was keen to add Ajmer to its kitty and hence fielded one of its senior Ministers with a view to woo Jat votes.

It has been observed that caste and candidate calculations play a role only to the extent of helping consolidate support in favour of a party that already has an edge. The emphasis on fielding family members of discredited Jat candidates in the Assembly elections did not yield any dividends to the Congress, given the strong mood against the party.

In Kota, the Congress has renominated its sitting MP, Ijyaraj Singh. Vasundhara Raje, who had a major say in the ticket allocation process, has fielded her confidant Om Birla from there in the hope of winning back the traditional BJP seat. She was present on the day Birla filed his nomination, but said that she did not possess a magic wand to solve all the problems of the State. The opposition has justifiably picked up on this statement. In Jhalawar, sitting MP Dushyant Singh, who is the Chief Minister’s son, faces former Congress legislator Pramod Jain Bhaya.

While Vasundhara Raje has consolidated her position as the undisputed leader of the BJP in the State and may have called the shots as far as ticket distribution is concerned, it is also clear that some veterans in her party, such as Ghanshyam Tiwari, who won from Jaipur with the largest margin, 65,000 votes, in the Assembly elections, are unhappy at being denied a Lok Sabha nomination. In Bharatpur, too, the local BJP unit is unhappy that Digambar Singh, who lost the Assembly elections, has been instrumental in deciding who would get the Lok Sabha nomination for the seat.

In what is going to be a largely bipolar contest, the spoils will be unequally distributed between the two main parties, with the advantage going to the BJP. This is because there has been no ostensible reason for people to get enthused by the Congress and the effects of the double anti-incumbency factor that were felt in the Assembly elections will resonate once more. Other political formations, such as the Bahujan Samaj Party, the National People’s Party and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, a broad front of non-Congress and non-BJP parties, will play a role but not to the extent of winning seats.

T.K. RAJALAKSHMI

This article was amended to correct the number of reserved seats in Rajasthan to seven (four for the Scheduled Castes and three for the Scheduled Tribes) and the name of BJP's candidate in Sikar to Swami Sumedhanand.

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