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Rajasthan polls: How will rebels muddy the waters for BJP nominees?
In all, the BJP is facing a threat in roughly 20 seats from rebels in the fray, causing much embarrassment to the party's official nominees
In what seems a show of desperation, the BJP has fielded seven sitting Lok Sabha members and a sitting Rajya Sabha member to contest the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha (assembly) elections this year, apparently for lack of suitable or potentially winning candidates.
But the decision to field Lok Sabha MPs has met with largescale protests from grassroots party workers in many areas, which once again appear to have prevented the party from continuing with the policy of fielding any more MPs.
Former Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who was elected from Jaipur rural seat in the 2018 Lok Sabha elections, has been nominated to contest from Jhotwara constituency in Jaipur, which is part of the assembly segment of the Jaipur Lok Sabha seat. This seat was represented by Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, a minister who served in the cabinets of both late chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and veteran former CM Vasundhara Raje.
This time, the denial of a ticket initially prompted Shekhawat to declare that he would contest as an independent candidate, but he withdrew following discussions with senior party leaders like Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda.
Possibly as part of the peace deal, he has been promised a ticket for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections from Jaipur rural, replacing Rathore if the latter wins the assembly seat. The sitting Congress MLA from Jhotwara — a minister in the current Ashok Gehlot cabinet and former minister in the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre — Lal Chand Kataria is not contesting this time.
Narpat Singh Rajvi, a three-time MLA from Vidyadhar Nagar and son-in-law of Shekhawat, was denied the ticket from this constituency. Instead, the party fielded Diya Kumari, the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Rajsamand, who was persuaded to contest from Vidyadhar Nagar as the party felt Rajvi would not be able to win. Diya Kumari, an erstwhile royal and daughter of the late Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Bhawani Singh, faces Sitaram Agarwal of the Congress.
Rajvi, who is to contest from Chittorgarh from where he was elected once, is now up against a rebellious Chandrabhan Singh Akya, the sitting BJP MLA. Angered by Rajvi replacing him, and claiming this has also hurt the sentiments of local BJP workers, Akya is contesting as an Independent and is confident of victory. Indeed, reports indicate that Rajvi is finding the going tough as he can't even get the party cadre to work for him.
Most local BJP workers seem to be supporting Akya, and have been claiming that Akya would prove that the party has made a "sacrificial goat" out of him only to oblige Rajvi, who used the goodwill of friends of Shekhawat to get the nomination, the workers say.
Likewise, Rajya Sabha MP Dr Kirori Lal Meena, a firebrand leader of the agricultural Meena community, is facing the wrath of Asha Meena in Sawai Madhopur, who has questioned the authority of Dr Meena, accusing of political opportunism. Dr Meena faces Danish Abrar, the sitting Congress MLA from Sawai Madhopur, who defeated Asha Meena in the 2018 elections. This time, Asha Meena may end up dividing the Meena votes, which could help Abrar retain his seat.
In all, the BJP is facing a threat in roughly 20 seats from rebels in the fray. Yet another notable name among them is Yunus Khan, a two-time cabinet minister in Vasundhara Raje's government. The BJP has not fielded any Muslim candidates this time, and the denial of a ticket to Yunus Khan has prompted him to contest from Deedwana as an independent, which may pose problems for Jitendra Singh Jodha of the BJP.
The party has tried its best to persuade the rebels to withdraw from the poll arena, but they have flouted party orders to the embarrassment of the contestants.
Among key constituencies in which the BJP rebels are expected to unsettle the party's official nominees are Pilani (reserved), Sanchor, Jhunjhunu, Fatehpur, Sikar, Khandela, Chittorgarh, Chaksu and Sanganer.
And finally, women BJP workers are unhappy owing to fewer nominations given to women this time, compared to the Congress. While the Congress has fielded 28 women candidates, the BJP has 20. In the 2018 elections, the BJP fielded 23 women compared to 27 from the Congress.