Is Jagdeep Dhankhar, a former RSS worker, Mohan Bhagwat’s choice?

The BJP has apparently tried to woo both Jats and OBCs in Rajasthan and elsewhere through Dhankhar’s nomination as NDA’s Vice Presidential candidate. Assembly elections in Rajasthan are due next year

Jagdeep Dhankhar
Jagdeep Dhankhar
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Prakash Bhandari

In the second week of July this year when the RSS had its Akhil Bharatiya Prant Pracharak convention in Jhujnjhunu in which all the big names of the RSS, including supremo Mohan Bhagwat, were present, they stayed at Jagdeep Dhankhar’s farmhouse in Kithana village just outside the town. Mrs. Dhankhar herself was there to look after the comfort of the guests.

RSS sources in Jaipur said that during the Jhunjhunu conclave, Mohan Bhagwat decided to back the candidature of Dhankhar for the office of Vice President of India.

Described as “Kisan Putra” and “People’s Governor”, Dhankhar is indebted to both Bhagwat and Union Home Minister Amit Shah for his nomination as the NDA candidate for the Vice President’s election.

Dhankhar had come in direct contact with Mohan Bhagwat in 2019 during an RSS conclave in Pushkar. Since then, the relationship between the two grew. This meeting was organised by his old friend Kamlesh Singh.

Jhunjunu is the home district of Jagdeep Dhankhar and he was elected to Lok Sabha from Jhunjhunu in 1989 on a Janata Dal ticket and served as a junior minister in VP Singh's government. It was Haryana leader Devi Lal who asked Dhankhar to contest the Lok Sabha election from Jhunjhunu and he won by a huge margin.

In the 1980s, Dhankhar was associated with the RSS and he founded the Adhivakta Sangh, a body of advocates along with Kamlesh Singh, an RSS activist. The Adhivakta Sangh had members who were all followers of RSS.

Later in 1993, Dhankar joined Congress and was elected to the Rajasthan Assembly from Kishangarh. He later contested two Lok Sabha elections from Ajmer and Jhunjhunu on Congress tickets but lost.

He joined NCP in 2001 but was not very active there. Then in 2003 he joined the BJP, though the party never considered him as a candidate for Assembly or Lok Sabha elections. A disillusioned Dhankhar concentrated on his legal practice in Rajasthan High Court and Supreme Court when in 2019 he was made the Governor of West Bengal.

Now, by making Dhankhar, a Jat, the Vice Presidential candidate, the BJP has tried to woo both the Jats and the OBC. The Jats were given the OBC status by the Ashok Gehlot government.

However, Rajasthan Congress spokesperson RC Choudhary says Dhankhar’s nomination as the Vice Presidential candidate would not have any impact on the state politics. He points out that there is still resentment among the Jats against the [now repealed] Farm Laws.

“The Jat population in the state is about 12 percent and the OBC are 56 percent. There are 37 Jat MLAs in Rajasthan belonging to the Congress, BJP and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) headed by Hanuman Beniwal. Beniwal’s party had electoral alliance with BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and Beniwal was the BJP-RLP alliance candidate. But RLP broke the alliance on the issue of the Farm laws and are now bitter critics of the BJP. Thus, the Jat community is unlikely to be appeased by the nomination of Dhankhar,” Choudhary said.

He said the Jats of Rajasthan adore and admire Satpal Malik, who comes from western Uttar Pradesh, for his plain speaking. He said the Congress would not be impacted by the nomination of Dhankhar as he was known for his political misjudgements and he deserted the Congress to first join the NCP and then the BJP.

Interestingly, Dhankhar’s younger brother Randeep Dhankhar is active in Congress. He served as the Chairman of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation and his daughter, Sheetal Dhankhar is currently a Commissioner of the Rajasthan State Information Commission, a Constitutional post.

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