Party MPs and MLAs say appointing the Rajput leader will hurt the party in election year, push for another MoS, a Dalit — Arjun Ram Meghwal — as state chief.
New Delhi: Heading into the assembly polls later this year, all doesn’t seem to be well for the ruling BJP in Rajasthan. The resignation of the state party chief Ashok Parnami last week has brought the divisions within the unit to the fore, and the infighting has reached the doors of BJP national president Amit Shah as well.
Union minister of state for agriculture, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, was tipped to be the strongest contender to take the reins of the state unit, but there is severe opposition to his name from a section of MPs and MLAs who claim to have the support of all-powerful chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
According to an MP who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Shekhawat is not the right man to lead the party into these crucial elections, where the BJP is looking to retain power after winning over 80 per cent of the state’s 200 seats in 2013.
“We are reeling under the ire of various castes, be it Rajputs or SC/STs. This is a crucial time for the party; we are going into the elections with people’s discontent with the state government rising,” the MP said.
“Recruiting Shekhawat to the post would further damage the party’s standing, and could upset many within the party. This is not a time to upset our leaders and cadre.
Alternative names doing the rounds include another central MoS, Arjun Ram Meghwal, and MLA Shrichand Kriplani. Sources say these two names have been proposed to Shah.
Jats versus Rajputs
Many of the leaders opposing Shekhawat’s name point to the historical friction between Jats and Rajputs as the key reason.
Col. (retd) Sona Ram, the Jat MP from Barmer, believes appointing Shekhawat, a Rajput, would drive his community away from the party.
“Jats have traditionally voted for the Congress. I too had contested elections for the Congress, but we came to the BJP fold because of Modi ji,” he said. “They should try and appoint a non-Rajput as state chief.”
Castes opposed to Rajputs — such as Jats and Bishnois, among others — constitute about 20 per cent of the state’s voting population.
This is why another MP’s advice to president Shah is to appoint someone who would be acceptable to all, and take everyone along.
“The belt around Jodhpur is all about the rivalry between Jats and Rajputs, and if Shekhawat is made chief, the Jats will get angry. Many Rajputs are also against him. Harmony is a must, and for that, a name that is acceptable to all should be appointed state chief,” said the MP.
This MP believes Meghwal is the right man for the job, because not only would he not alienate Jats and Rajputs, but also reduce the possibility of the SC/ST vote going away from the BJP.
“SCs and STs are going away from our party, but if Meghwal (a Dalit) is made state chief, there is a possibility of them coming back to our fold,” the MP said.