THE FIRST CA­SU­ALTY OFTHE BHAN­WRI EPISODE COULD BE THE SCHED­ULED CASTE VOTE BANK IN THE 2012 UPASSEMBLY POLLS, SINCE SHE WAS A DALIT.

India Today - - COVER STORY -

gen­eral sec­re­tary. While the Maderna fam­ily’s in­flu­ence is lim­ited to a few Jat­dom­i­nated pock­ets of Jodh­pur, this is the first sex scan­dal to rock Ra­jasthan. Gehlot’s govern­ment had been charged with cor­rup­tion and in­ef­fi­ciency. Now sleaze has been added to the list.

Nor is this the only sex scan­dal. A lo­cal news­pa­per re­port dated Septem­ber 29 im­pli­cated an­other Cabi­net min­is­ter, Ram Lal Jat. It re­vealed that Paras Devi, a wo­man friend of Jat, had com­mit­ted sui­cide on Septem­ber 27. Jat was in a zilla par­ishad meet­ing at his con­stituency in Bhilwara at the time. He had rushed to the hos­pi­tal and in­sisted on a post-mortem that very night. When told that the post-mortem would only take place the next day, he took the body to an­other hos­pi­tal but had to re­turn for want of doc­tors. The post-mortem did not re­veal any­thing sus­pi­cious. But the vis­cera re­port is awaited. What was sus­pi­cious how­ever was Jat’s be­hav­iour that night. He re­signed on Novem­ber 12 af­ter a re­port ac­cused him of more af­fairs with his of­fi­cers’ wives. He de­nied the al­le­ga­tions but Gehlot ac­cepted his res­ig­na­tion on Novem­ber 15.

The first ca­su­alty of Gehlot’s mis­gov­er­nance could be Congress’s prospects in poll-bound Ut­tar Pradesh. Since Bhan­wri be­longs to the Sched­uled Caste ( SC), the mis­han­dling of the case could im­pact not just the 60-lakh-strong SC vote in Ra­jasthan but also in next-door Ut­tar Pradesh. The Gopal­garh in­ci­dent on Septem­ber 14, in which 10 Meo Mus­lims were killed dur­ing a po­lice fir­ing in front of a mosque, has al­ready pro­voked Mus­lims. State Home Min­is­ter Shanti Dhari­wal has re­fused to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ci­dent that hap­pened on his watch. Nor did Gehlot push for his res­ig­na­tion. The fact that, un­like Maderna, Dhari­wal was not axed, has an­gered both the 60-lakh-strong Mus­lim com­mu­nity and the 32 lakh Jat vote in the state. Both the Gopal­garh and the Bhan­wri in­ci­dents im­pact two com­mu­ni­ties that the Congress is woo­ing des­per­ately in Ut­tar Pradesh.

Gehlot him­self is all too aware of this. On Novem­ber 11, he told the me­dia that “the in­ci­dent is such that it can give any- one goose­bumps. She was a Dalit wo­man and the way she was kidnapped and the in­ci­dents there­after are hor­ri­fy­ing.”

The Chief Min­is­ter cer­tainly has more than just goose­bumps. If he can­not con­tain the rot, he may be re­placed. The Congress lead­er­ship al­ready has a suc­ces­sion plan in place. The fron­trun­ner is C.P. Joshi, Cabi­net min­is­ter and ex-ra­jasthan Congress chief. An able ad­min­is­tra­tor, Joshi also has Congress Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Rahul Gandhi’s bless­ings. An­other con­tender is Ji­ten­der Singh, who fits into Gandhi’s game plan of a gen­er­a­tional change in lead­er­ship. Mean­while, the BJP has scented blood. “The make-up alone can’t mask the ugly scar that Bhan­wri has left. The Chief Min­is­ter must quit to pull the state out of such a shame,” says a re­ju­ve­nated Leader of Op­po­si­tion Va­sund­hara Raje. “You can hold as many meet­ings as pos­si­ble with your min­is­ters but the de­ci­sions have to be taken by you.”

Gehlot is not the only one scalded by the Bhan­wri bomb. Al­ready steeped in sev­eral scams, the Congress high com­mand has to fight a sex—and pos­si­ble mur­der—scan­dal in one of its most mis­gov­erned states.

Pho­tographs by PU­RUSHOT­TAM DI­WAKAR /www.in­di­a­to­day­im­ages.com

MEM­BERS OFTHE GEHLOT (LEFT) MIN­ISTRY

EMERGE AF­TER PUTTING IN THEIR PA­PERS

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