Kirori Lal May Queer Pitch For Cong, BJP
In Rajasthan, electoral history suggests that a third front remains unheard in the state politics. Here politics revolves around two parties- the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
However, this time a rebel BJP leader Dr Kirori Lal Meena, who was a minister in the BJP government of Vasundhara Raje, is trying to pose a threat claiming that his party Rashtriya Jan Party (RJP) would play key role in the formation of next government in the state.
Dr Meena, an independent Lok Sabha member from Dausa which was once the constituency of late Rajesh Pilot has been campaigning actively by a helicopter. But people do not know how the Independent MP will foot the hefty Rs six crore bill in the coming months to the aviation company whose helicopter he had hired. He wants to field 150 candidates, but on 35 seats, neither the BJP nor the Congress can defeat his party, that is what he claims. Many leaders and political parties have come forward for the alliance.
“Leaders from Lok Janshakti Party have invited us for a meeting. Apart from CPM, Shiv Sena and Baba Ramdev have extended their support. Regular meetings are being held with Gurjar leaders and they too are almost ready to join us,” said Meena. Dr Meena, a medico, says that neither Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and nor BJP’s Vasundhara Raje will be the chief minister next time.
Interestingly, his illiterate wife Golma Devi, who had won as an Independent was a minister in the Gehlot government. Golma, who held the khadi and gramodyog portfolio, resigned following differences with Gehlot.
Dr Meena broke away with the BJP on the issue of Gujjar reservations and won the Dausa Lok Sabha seat against a Muslim Gujjar candidate. The Meenas and Gujjars are opposed to each other and the Gujjars are sore that Meenas enjoying ST status have become a force to reckon with.
The Meenas are the Scheduled Tribes in Rajasthan and are located in mostly eastern and southern Rajasthan. Because of the benefits of reservation, there are over 500 IFS, IAS, IPS and various civil services officers spread all over the country.
SONGS ARE A BIG HIT
In order to woo his voters especially in eastern Rajasthan, some admirers of Dr Meena have launched a CD having songs in the local language spoken by the Meenas. The youths of Meena community are not only buying the album ‘Naam Vako Hai Kirori’ (His name is Kirori), but they are also seen making the famous songs as their caller’s tune. The album is produced and directed by Pratima Chaturvedi.
Kirori says, “There are local musicians who also participate in the Hela Khayal (a competition in which farmers pen the songs which are satires on national and international politics and changing scenarios).”
Such is the craze for the songs that Dr Meena’s admirers are posting views on facebook. “There are hardly any mass leaders left in Rajasthan. Dr Kirori Lal Meena is one of them. He is always available for the backward people in the state irrespective of their caste and creed,” says Jagat Meena, a medical student.
These civil servants support Dr Meena and in all likelihood fund him also. In all, there are 30 ST reserved seats for Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha and Dr Meena is eying all these seats. The southern districts are so dominated by tribal population that 19 Assembly seats here are reserved for candidates belonging to Scheduled Tribes (STs).
But Dr Meena has not been able to make a dent in southern Rajasthan where large number of ST seats are reserved. In three districts of Banswara, Dungarpur and Pratabgarh, there is not a single general seat.
Dr Meena has no influence on Bhil Meenas of southern Rajasthan. As Kirori belongs to east Rajasthan, the Bhil Meenas are unhappy with the agriculturist Meenas of east Rajasthan who are thriving while the Bhils remain a poor lot. It is likely that the Bhil Meenas would vote for the Congress and the BJP.
Both the main political parties claim that the Dausa MP was hardly in any position to damage their prospects in this region. “Dr Kirori is only a representative of the Meena community and has no political following. He cannot be trusted in politics and is unlikely to damage the Congress’s prospects as his influence has been in a few districts only,” says Dr Chandrabhan, president of Pradesh Congress Committee.
However, the parties are wary of Dausa MP, who is widely believed to be responsible for the previous Vasundhara Raje-led government’s downfall during the 2008 Assembly elections. Shortly before the elections, Meena, who was a cabinet minister then, was expelled from the BJP.
About half a dozen independents supported by Dr Meena came out victorious and they came to the help of the Congress which had fallen short of an absolute majority in the last Assembly elections. However, Meena fell out with the Congress also later on. This time, he says, he will be the kingmaker and is working hard to achieve his goal.
In the last Assembly elections, six BSP candidates had won, who later joined the Congress. The BSP is considered to be a dark horse this time also and so is the CPM, which currently has three MLAs in a House of 200.
The CPM has emerged as strong political party in areas where agrarian movement has been strong like Sikar, Hanumangarh and Ganganagar districts. The CPM is considered an ideal alternative to both the Congress and the BJP as it’s a party that has taken up the cause of the farmers.
Chief Minister Gehlot feels that a third front will remain a dream in Rajasthan. “The third, fourth or fifth front, all these things are routine and welcome moves, let them come up, they would work on their mission and we shall also continue to further our work,” Gehlot said.
Gehlot may be unmoved by the so called third front, but some challenges which are yet to be resolved by the Congress and the BJP, is the Kirori factor and the Jat factor. The Jats are unhappy with Gehlot, but they are undecided about the party they would support. The Jat leadership is divided and there are too many Jat leaders in the state which has 17 per cent of their population.
Kirori Lal Meena is now trying to woo the minority voters to strengthen the third front. “The Congress has done nothing for the community. Incidents of communal disturbances have increased in recent years. I will soon hold a rally of one lakh Muslims irked over incidents like Gopalgarh where eight Muslims died of police firing”,” Meena says.
Chander Raj Singhvi, the national secretary of the Sharad Yadav-led Janta Dal (U) who was once in BJP and was the champion strategist of the BJP in the 2003 Vidhan Sabha elections is now anti-BJP. Singhvi, who was duly given his due by the Vasundhara Raje government fell out with her leading to his ouster from the BJP.
Singhvi has personal axe to grind and he has reportedly made a list of 19 BJP candidates considered close to Raje, and plans to defeat them in the forthcoming Assembly polls.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur