Jaipur: Vasundhara Raje’s reign over Rajasthan since 2013 has not only paved the way for anti-incumbency but has also led to the emergence of new alternatives in the state’s politics.
Apart from the traditional political players, two rebellious BJP leaders have also surfaced – Hanuman Beniwal, an independent MLA from Khinvsar and a rising Jat leader, and Ghanshyam Tiwari, a six-time BJP MLA and former state minister – who are adamant on sidelining the national political parties.
However, political analysts believe that it’s not yet time for the state to give up to the ‘third front,’ though the political equations would definitely be affected by its presence.
Fuss over farmers
If there is one section that would certainly vote to rule out the BJP government from Rajasthan, it is the farmers. In the past five years, farmers in the state have consistently suffered from the policies of the ruling government – hassles in obtaining claims under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, the menace of stray cattle, strict rules for subsidy on loans under Kisan Credit Card and false promises of doubling incomes.
All the emerging parties and alliances in the state are thus cashing in on this distress.
In the last assembly elections, the Left parties – Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) and Marxist Communist Party of India (United) failed to win even a single ticket. However, this time, the Left has formed a seven-party alliance, Loktantrik Morcha with the Janata Dal (Secular), Rashtriya Lok Dal and Samajwadi Party in Rajasthan.
While the CPI(M) has consistently made efforts to stand with the farmers in the past few years, the effect has been restricted to the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan – Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Churu – and parts of Nagpur and Jaipur. Possibly because of this limitation, the party is open to forming an alliance with any party that is speaking on farmer’s issues.
“We stand for the farmers of Rajasthan. Anyone who wants to work for their upliftment is most welcome. We are in talks with the rest of the parties,” Amra Ram, state general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Rajasthan, told The Wire.
“In the past few years, the CPI(M) has ‘hijacked’ almost every farmer-related issue and made sure that their voices are heard. Though the party doesn’t have a pan-Rajasthan coverage, the Shekhawati region would definitely be dominated by the Left,” Rajendra Bora, senior journalist and a political analyst told The Wire.
BJP leader and Kisan Mahapanchayat founder, Rampal Jat joined the Aam Aadmi Party last month to carry forward his agenda of ‘Kisan Raj.’ While Rampal Jat and Beniwal have been vocal about farmer’s issues, they have exhausted every possibility of joining forces. The Beniwal-Tiwari alliance, however, is open to joining the Loktantrik Morcha.
“We sent our agenda to all the parties including Beniwal, but no one except the Aam Aadmi Party included it in their manifesto. Actually, Beniwal’s party doesn’t have the issues, he’s just campaigning for his own existence,” Rampal Jat told The Wire.
Until last month, there were reports suggesting that the Aam Aadmi Party will be forming an alliance with the Left, but now the party will solely contest on all 200 seats.
Devendra Shastri, co-ordinator of AAP in Rajasthan, told The Wire, “We were in talks with the Left for a workable alliance but they insisted on the inclusion of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Amra Ram has been fighting from Dhod constituency since 1993 which has now been reserved for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Caste. He would be contesting from Danta Ramgarh constituency for which he would require Dalit support and was after the BSP to get an advantage. Since AAP’s ideology doesn’t match with the BSP, we refrained.”
“The remaining two – Beniwal and Tiwari – don’t have any base or coherent with our ideology. We believe that Rajasthan would take note of our work in Delhi and support us.”
BSP has already refused to form an alliance with Congress in the state assembly elections in Rajasthan. Last assembly elections, BSP won three seats out of the 195 it contested.
Impact of rival BJP leaders
Beniwal contested independently from Nagaur’s Khinvsar in the 2013 assembly elections and emerged victorious, leaving the Congress and BJP candidates far behind. Last month, he launched his own political party, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party to contest on all 200 assembly seats.
Beniwal, who is said to put in a lot of money in campaigning, said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi did rallies in Rajasthan but our Hunkar rallies in Nagaur, Barmer, Bikaner, Sikar and Jaipur broke all the records with lakhs of people turning out each time which clearly proves that we are the change that the public of Rajasthan is looking for,” Beniwal told The Wire.
While Beniwal has emerged as a strong contender to sway the politically-conscious Jat community, political observers say his influence is unlikely to go beyond Khinvsar.
“In Rajasthan, Jats are synonymous with farmers. This is a strong, self-aware community which despite lacking representation in Rajasthan politics managed to seek reservation under the Other Backward Class category. However, it’s difficult to say that Beniwal’s party would be able to influence the community across Rajasthan; the crowd in his rallies mostly constitute fringe elements who are paid and brought up,” said Bora.
“It is very well known that Ashok Gehlot shares a strained relationship with the Jats, so it is highly possible that Beniwal would cut off the Congress’s votes, rather than that of BJP.”
Beniwal appeals to the Rajasthan youth, but his position as a ‘farmer’s son’ is debatable, particularly in the Jat-dominated Shekhawati belt.
“Beniwal is a leader of Jat but he’s not an effective leader of the Jat community. Interestingly, the Shekhawati region that has witnessed the farmer’s movement in the last few years is essentially the Jat-dominated belt and I don’t think Beniwal would be able to penetrate in that manner and would end up helping the Left,” Rajiv Gupta, retired professor at University of Rajasthan and a political watcher told The Wire.
Tiwari, a six-time BJP MLA, launched the Bharat Vahini Party soon after the separation. Now the two leaders are set to form an alliance.
“We have agreed on an alliance between Bharat Vahini Party and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party but we are yet to finalise,” Tiwari told The Wire.
However, the chances of a successful merger seem rare pertaining to the distinct objectives of the parties. “It could also happen that Beniwal and Tiwari might join the Loktantrik Morcha. The situation would become clear only in a few days,” added Gupta.