Jolt to BJP In Ra­jasthan?

Exit of Man­ven­dra Singh, Ghan­shyam Ti­wari, Hanu­man Beni­wal, Kirori Singh Bainsla may hit tra­di­tional BJP’s vote bank of Ra­jput, Brah­min and some fringes of Jat and Gu­j­jars

The Day After - - CONTENT - By dAnFEs

In a set­back to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ra­jasthan, rebel leader Man­ven­dra Singh, son of for­mer BJP union min­is­ter Jaswant Singh, joined the Congress on Wed­nes­day. Man­ven­dra had re­signed from the saf­fron party late last month, cit­ing dif­fer­ences with the lead­er­ship. He had then said, “Ka­mal ka phool, hamaari bhool (the lo­tus was my mis­take)”.

He has since then in­di­cated to the Congress that he would be open to join­ing the party. How­ever, the Congress re­mained tight-lipped about his in­duc­tion while weigh­ing the pros and cons.

A sit­ting MLA from the Sheo con­stituency in the state as­sem­bly, Man­ven­dra was sus­pended from the party af­ter he de­cided to sup­port his fa­ther in the 2014 gen­eral elec­tions. Jaswant Singh had un­suc­cess­fully con­tested as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date from BarmerJaisalmer Lok Sabha con­stituency af­ter he was de­nied a BJP ticket. His re­bel­lion had gath­ered a lot of at­ten­tion and ever since, the Singh fam­ily has not been in good terms with the saf­fron party’s lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially the Naren­dra Modi-Amit Shah duo and Ra­jasthan chief min­is­ter Va­sund­hara Raje Scin­dia.

Man­ven­dra’s in­duc­tion could help the Congress con­sol­i­date the dom­i­nant Ra­jput votes, a group which is ex­tremely in­flu­en­tial in elec­toral pol­i­tics de­spite not be­ing one of the most pop­u­lous com­mu­ni­ties in Ra­jasthan (they com­prise be­tween 6-7% of the state’s pop­u­la­tion).

Af­ter Man­ven­dra de­clared that he was open about join­ing the Congress, the state lead­er­ship of the party mulled over whether es­pous­ing Man­ven­dra, a Ra­jput leader, would send a wrong mes­sage to the ri­val Jat com­mu­nity in the state. In­sid­ers say that the Congress lead­er­ship re­solved the Jat com­mu­nity’s in­se­cu­ri­ties be­fore bring­ing Man­ven­dra into its fold.

The Barmer-Jaisalmer re­gion, from where Man­ven­dra con­tests, is a Jat strong­hold, and has his­tor­i­cally sup­ported the Congress. The Ra­jputs have veered to­wards the BJP tra­di­tion­ally. The Congress now hopes to gain the con­fi­dence of

Ra­jputs, who are sup­pos­edly an­gry with BJP’s state lead­er­ship, in the re­gion ahead of the up­com­ing as­sem­bly polls. Ac­cord­ing to stats Ra­jputs im­pact about 50 of the state’s 200 seats and hold 26 of them.

When Jaswant Singh con­tested as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date in 2014, he had been able to garner a ma­jor chunk of votes from smaller OBC com­mu­ni­ties. Al­though he lost, his son Man­ven­dra be­lieves that he still has the sup­port of com­mu­ni­ties like the Ra­jpuro­hits, Cha­rans, and Pra­jap­ats, along with a sub­stan­tial sec­tion of Mus­lim votes liv­ing in the Barmer-Jaisalmer area.

While join­ing the Congress, the rebel BJP leader told the NDTV, “No one knows the chief min­is­ter bet­ter and I will not at­tack her be­cause it is not my cul­ture. Her (Scin­dia’s) de­feat is pre-or­dained.”

In a bid to con­tain the Ra­jput anger, BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah tried to ap­point cen­tral min­is­ter and Ra­jput leader Ga­jen­dra Singh Shekhawat as the state BJP unit’s pres­i­dent, but Scin­dia ap­par­ently shot down the idea, caus­ing fur­ther anger among Ra­jputs. Af­ter much de­lib­er­a­tions, Madan Lal Saini, an OBC leader, be­came the con­sen­sus can­di­date and he was ap­pointed as the party’s state pres­i­dent.

The party, how­ever, thought that Man­ven­dra’s exit would have no im­pact on the BJP. “It will have no ef­fect in BarmerJaisalmer belt. “The Congress is help­less. There­fore it is adopt­ing side­lined BJP lead­ers. It is his per­sonal de­ci­sion but this is a po­lit­i­cally wrong de­ci­sion. He is not go­ing to get any­thing with this,” PTI had quoted Rathore as say­ing.

How­ever, Ra­jasthan Congress Pres­i­dent Sachin Pi­lot hit back at the BJP, “There is a long list of lead­ers quit­ting the BJP and the party should in­tro­spect why this is hap­pen­ing,” he said, adding that his party will launch him as one of the star cam­paign­ers for the as­sem­bly polls.

The Pi­lot scion is right as Man­ven­dra is not the lone leader who has left lo­tus and hold hand or floated their own party ahead of as­sem­bly polls. Six-time BJP MLA Ghan­shyam Ti­wari has been op­pos­ing the party lead­er­ship within the As­sem­bly and out­side. Af­ter be­ing served no­tice by the BJP for indis­ci­pline, the pop­u­lar Brah­min leader re­signed from the party to form his ‘Bharat Vahini Party.’ He is now try­ing to cre­ate an anti-BJP mo­men­tum in the state, urg­ing like-minded lead­ers to join him.

Hanu­man Beni­wal, a Jat leader from Na­gaur who is re­garded a crowd puller at po­lit­i­cal ral­lies, may also have some im­pact on the sen­ti­ment in the re­gion. He was elected on a BJP ticket from Khin­vsar As­sem­bly seat in 2008, but quit the BJP be­cause of dif­fer­ences with the state party lead­er­ship.

An­other pos­si­ble spoil­sport is Kirori Singh Bainsla, who stormed into lime­light in 2008 for de­mand­ing reser­va­tions in govern­ment jobs and ed­u­ca­tion for five com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing the Gu­j­jars. Though Bainsla has not an­nounced any plan to con­test the year-end elec­tions yet, he may still ex­ert in­flu­ence among the Gu­j­jars in eastern Ra­jasthan. Bainsla had re­cently threat­ened to dis­rupt Chief Min­is­ter Va­sund­hara Raje `Gau­rav Ya­tra’ in Bharat­pur divi­sion. That leg of the ya­tra’, how­ever, was can­celled af­ter for­mer prime min­is­ter Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee’s death. The party, how­ever, has man­aged to get back an­other caste leader, Kirori Lal Meena, af­ter he quit the party.

The party, how­ever, thought that Man­ven­dra’s exit would have no im­pact on the BJP. “It will have no ef­fect in BarmerJaisalmer belt. “The Congress is help­less. There­fore it is adopt­ing side­lined BJP lead­ers

For­mer Ra­jasthan BJP MLA Man­ven­dra Singh (C) with Sachin Pi­lot, Ashok Gehlot and other lead­ers dur­ing a press con­fer­ence af­ter Man­ven­dra joined Congress party

Kirori Singh Bainsla

Hanu­man Beni­wal

Ghan­shyam Ti­wari

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