Mutiny against Raje hurts Rajasthan BJP, but Cong not the gainer
Among those denied tickets by the BJP or marginalized in the party, there has been a stampede to join the anti-Raje formation spearheaded by Kirori Lal Meena.
Wolves in Rajasthan’s political jungle are shedding their sheep’s clothing. Cutting across party lines, politicians are herding together with just one aim: Stop Vasundhara Raje.
On Saturday, former BJP president Ramdas Agarwal met tribal leader Kirori Lal Meena for more than two hours to formulate a joint election strategy. With him, according to reports, was Raje’s former Man Friday and current enemy Satya Narayan Gupta.
Agarwal and Gupta, who have been completely ignored by both Raje and the BJP, are not the only ones to have taken their gloves off on the eve of elections.
A few days ago, Jat Mahasabha leader and Rajya Sabha member Gyan Prakash Pilania fled the BJP after his son Naveen was denied a ticket from Jaipur’s Amer constituency.
Gurjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla, who contested the last Lok Sabha election as a BJP candidate, is also on the verge of joining the anti-Raje gang. Bainsla has been shuttling between Ashok Gehlot and Meena, who is head of the state unit of the Nationalist People's Party (NPP). Bainsla is likely to join hands with whoever offers him the best deal.
Over the past few days, there has been a stampede among politicians to join the anti-Raje formation spearheaded by Meena. Those denied tickets by the BJP or marginalized in the party are running like lemmings towards the NPP, which has been only too eager to accommodate them. At last count, nearly a dozen former and current BJP legislators had joined Meena’s party. A few more are waiting for the final list of BJP candidates to make up their mind.
The sentiment that is driving renegades towards the fledgling third front was once famously defined by Gordon Gecko. All of them are convinced that no single party will win the 101 seats required for a simple majority. If that happens, independent and others would be the top picks on the Rajasthan sensex. Greed, on the Wall Street of polls, is good.
There are many other emotions at work. Meena, who supported the Congress in 2008, dreams of becoming the chief minister in the event of a hung Assembly. But he also nurses deep animus against Raje, who he will try to stop at any cost.
Gupta was Raje’s trusted lieutenant for several decades. But he was left out in the cold after he reportedly tried to push his own case for Raje’s traditional Jhalawar Lok Sabha constituency. Now he seeks revenge.
Agarwal, a former MP and a master exponent of the fine art of backroom maneuvering, is looking to become relevant again in the state’s politics after being jettisoned by Raje. He is convinced that in the event of a fractured mandate, his skills would turn him into the kingmaker.
Several businessmen and jewelers who are wary of Raje are funding the stop-Raje campaign. Most of them benefitted immensely during the Gehlot Raj. They now fear that Raje may review some of their deals that smack of favoritism and corruption. As a result of this combined offensive, Meena’s ranks have swelled. So has his war chest.
Traditionally, in an election scenario, rebels prefer to join the enemy camp. But the Congress is attracting very little of the BJP flotsam. The reason for this is the feeling that the Congress is unlikely to emerge as the single-largest party in case of a hung Assembly. As a result, most do not see their future in the Congress.
Though the rebellion looks bad on paper for Raje, she would be happy to see the masks coming off her closet enemies. In the 2008 elections, many of her detractors had sabotaged her campaign from within the party. This time their machinations would at least be played out in the open.
In this election, Raje has so far managed to take the major players in the party with her. She has even managed to appease the Sangh. The bonhomie within the saffron parivar was reflected when the BJP released most of its candidates for the 200 seats without even a hint of heartburn in the top brass. Except for the presence of the over ambitious Ghanshyam Tiwari, a known Raje critic, the BJP has very little to fear from its own.
The only point of concern for the BJP would be the widespread rebellion within its ranks after candidates were declared. Protests have been raging in almost every region of the state despite Raje’s announcement that the list would not be reviewed.
Raje had factored this is in after her Suraaj Sankalp Yatra before elections had bred many hopefuls. She had prepared herself for unrest and anger by finalizing most of her candidates at the beginning of September.
Raje had, in fact, spent a major part of the past month individually speaking to potential rebels, telling them clearly that they would lose out on the opportunity of being part of the BJP government, which, according to her, is a fait accompli.
Whether Raje’s homework would help her limit the damage to the party would be known only after the final date for withdrawal of names. Till then, the wolves would keep revealing themselves. And Meena would continue dreaming.
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