Independents To Play A Pivotal Role
As the process of the nomination of the Congress candidates in Rajasthan has began and the names of the candidates have been invited from the party’s block level organisation, the question on the fate of the 16 MLAs including six BSP members is not known. They are the MLAs who supported the Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot to gain majority and run the government smoothly for four and a half years. In 2008 because of a hung House, the Congress who won 96 out of the 200 seats became the single largest party and was invited to form the government. Later in a political coup, the Gehlot government managed to get the en block support of the six BSP MLAs and a Lok Shakti Party’s MLA besides the Independents. The BSP MLAs collectively decided to deceive BSP supreme Mayawati and support the Congress at a time when the Congress and the BSP had crossed swords. Having gained the support of these 16 MLA, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was a happy man and he got a new lease of life to rule the state and the support meant the Congress was running a government which was not in minority. The case of the six BSP MLAs is not resolved and the Vidhan Sabha Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat even after four and half years could not give a ruling on status of these six BSP MLA on the issue of their disqualification under the rule for violation of the Anti the Defection Act. As the Opposition did not get any favourable ruling from the Speaker, the Opposition moved to the High Court where the matter is still pending and the High Court is unlikely to deliver any
order on this issue before the coming Assembly election in December this year.
The Gehlot government made all the six BSP MLAs ministers and parliamentary secretaries and all of them are now seeking the Congress tickets having joined the Congress— so is the case with the 10 Independents. These six BSP MLAs are Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, Rajendra Singh Gudha, Murari Lal Meena, Ramkesh Meena, Ramesh Meena and Girraj Singh Malinga.
All the six BSP MLAs had defeated the Congress candidates, while the Lok Shakti MLA and the nine Independents had also defeated the Congress candidates. Ramswarup Kasana is the Lok Shakti Party’s member and the nine Independents are Parsadi Lal Meena, Ram Kishor Saini, Bramhdev Kumawat, Harji Ram Burdak, Dilip Choudhry, Nanaram Nimana Kanhaiya Lal Jhawar, Jaideep Dudi and Gurmeet Kunnar.
The BSP members and the Independents are now worried because of the recent statement of the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, whwewin he categorically said that these “migrants” from other parties and Independents should first get themselves baptized in the Congress culture and then the party would think whether they should be given ticket or not. The six BSP MLAs have already been expelled by the BSP supreme Mayawati and she categorically told them that they would not get the party ticket.
These six BSP MLAs have been participating in the Congress party’s activities, but there is opposition by the party workers in their respective constituencies. The Congress candidates, who lost to these six BSP MLAs, are raising their voice against these candidates and are seeking party’s ticket. But what is to be seen is that except one all the six BSP MLAs won by a fairly large margin and in case of Girraj Singh Malinga, he defeated four-time party MLA Daljit Singh Chiku by over 27,000 votes and a former minister in the Congress government Parasadi Lal Meena, who was denied party ticket in 2008 yet he defeated the Congress candidate by over 42,000 votes.
Similarly, the Independents except one won by a massive margin and proved that the party was wrong in not giving them tickets. Thus, both BSP members and the Independents are emphasising that they a right to seek the party ticket because of their proven record showing loyalty to the Congress and also because of their electoral success.
“How can the party deny us the ticket when we helped the Congress by lending our support at a time when the Gehlot government was in a minority? Moreover, we have accepted the Congress membership also and have severed our connections with the BSP,” said Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, Minister of State for Health.
Most of these BSP and Independents MLAs stressed that they came from the Congress background and had contested from the BSP or as Independents after the party denied them the ticket. “I was three-times Congress MLA and was a minister in the Gehlot government, but in 2003 because of the conflict within the party I was denied the ticket from the Lalsot (ST) seat and when I contested as an Independents I defeated the Congress candidate Satpal Meena by over 42,000 votes. What does it prove? It proved that the party was wrong in denying me the ticket. Thus, I would still be seeking the party ticket and nobody can deny me the nomination,” said Parsadi Lal Meena, a Cabinet minister.
But those who lost against these rivals are also holding position in the party and are seeking tickets from the same constituency. Those who lost are district Congress presidents or zila pramukhs and are backed by some central leaders from the region. Sachin Pilot and Sis ram Ola, both union ministers, are backing two such defeated candidates.
The Congress and the BJP both are facing tough challenges from the Independent MP from Dausa Dr Kirori Lal Meena, who is thriving on the ST Meena votes and have the support of other OBC communities also. The Independents Murari Lal Meena and Ramesh Meena are offering stiff resistance to the move of Dr Kirori Meena, who has formed his own political party.
In a public meeting Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot admitted that he was leading a coalition government in the state and the Congress could come to power only because of the support extended by the BSP and the Independents. He said the coalition governments whether in the state or at the centre is a political compulsion in today’s electoral politics. It is certain that these MLAs cannot be denied ticket and under such circumstances the Congress will face the rebellion and those who contested on party ticket in the last election could contest as an Independents.
In Rajasthan, the Independents and the candidates of smaller parties are expected to be a spoil sport. Dr Kirori Lal Meena has been claiming that all the tribals and some of the OBC castes would vote for his party which would turn the table on both BSP and the Congress and his party would play a vital role in the formation of government in the state.
The clash is between the Congress and the BJP, but smaller parties like CPM, SP, BSP and JD(U)) will also assert and are likely to be benefited with a large polarisation of votes. The BSP state unit leader Baba Bhagwan Singh said that the party would contest all the 200 seats and would certainly perform better than last time. The CPM, which has three party MLAs in the House, hopes to increase its number. The CPM is strongly pitched in the rural Rajasthan and the CPM could perform still better.
The JD(U) has no political base in the state except in the tribal belt of the Udaipur region where the lone sitting MLA Fateh Singh is there. But the JD(U) national secretary Chander Raj Singhvi said that his party would contest the election with understanding with other parties. These understanding will be purely at the state level and would not be influenced by the national strategies.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur
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