Jaipur: The ruling Congress party in Rajasthan is soon going to undergo a cabinet expansion and reshuffle.
The party has performed fairly well in the recently held urban local body (ULB), panchayat samiti and zila parishad elections, and the MLAs in the best performing regions are expecting a decent position in chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s cabinet.
Interestingly, the eastern part of Rajasthan, where former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has a strong base of loyalists, has done exceptionally well. This has created an obligation on the Congress party state in-charge, Ajay Maken, to ensure adequate representation for the Pilot camp in the cabinet.
In fact, the party has been consistently performing well in the eastern part of Rajasthan. Beginning from the 2018 state assembly polls, the party’s tally in the region has given it an edge over the BJP.
In the recently held ULB polls too, the party has taken a noticeable lead in the region. The Congress has to credit the efforts of the MLAs in these districts, who are also well-known supporters of Pilot.
The eastern Rajasthan consists of Bharatpur, Dholpur, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa, Tonk, Baran, and Jhalawar districts.
Out of these, Baran, Bharatpur, Dausa, Dholpur, Karauli, and Sawai Madhopur have gone to ULB polls, except Sawai Madhopur in this region, and the party has been able to put up a good show.
In Bharatpur, with the efforts of Pilot’s closest ally, Vishvender Singh, an MLA from Deeg-Kumher, the party has been able to form a board in all eight nagar palikas, which have gone to polls.
Singh had been the tourism and devasthan minister in the Gehlot cabinet from 2018 until he was sacked from the post for lending support to the rebellion led by Pilot earlier this year.
Previously, he had been a three-time member of parliament from Bharatpur – from Janata Dal in 1989, and from the BJP in 1999 and 2004. He is also the son of the last maharaja of Bharatpur and enjoys popularity in the region.
In Karauli too, the Congress has formed a board at two nagar parishads and one nagar palika. Here, MLA from Pilot’s camp, Ramesh Meena, commands the support of the Scheduled Tribe votes.
Meena held the food and civil supplies’ portfolio in the Gehlot cabinet. He too was dropped for standing against the chief minister during the political showdown between Gehlot and Pilot this year.
He became an MLA for the first time from Sapotra in 2008 on a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) ticket. In 2013, he joined the Congress and became an MLA once again. He has been a part of the Congress since then.
In Dausa, which is a stronghold of Pilot because of his father, Rajesh Pilot, who was an MP from here, the party has formed a board in all two nagar palikas and one nagar parishad.
Here, Sachin Pilot supporter and MLA Murari Lal Meena too has made significant contributions to improve the party’s performance.
Apart from eastern Rajasthan, the party has done exceptionally well in the state capital, Jaipur. Here, the party has formed a board at nine out of 10 nagar palikas. The other one has gone in favour of an independent candidate.
Jaipur MLA Indraj Gurjar is said to have put in a lot of efforts to improve the party’s performance in the capital city. Gurjar is Pilot’s close aide and was given a ticket in the last assembly polls on the insistence of Pilot. He was elected as an MLA for the first time in the last assembly polls after defeating two-time BJP MLA Phool Chand.
Although Jaipur is considered to be BJP’s bastion, its poor performance in the state capital is being seen as a defining change in state politics.
Poor performance of cabinet ministers
In Gehlot’s home turf, Jodhpur, the party could form a board only at one nagar palika, while the second one has gone into BJP’s kitty.
In Alwar, the Congress party has shown the worst performance. Out of the six ULBs that have gone to polls, the party could form a board only in two. The remaining have gone in the BJP’s favour. Here, Gehlot’s close aide and cabinet minister Tikaram Jully could not prove his worth.
Independent MLA of Sirohi and a Gehlot supporter, Sanyam Lodha, could not win the lone ULB of Sirohi, making the way for the BJP.
Stating reasons for such poor performance, Gehlot has stated that all he has been doing is to focus on containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The entire focus of the state government was on containing the pandemic and therefore did not send state and central level leaders to campaign in these elections to avoid gathering of crowds and curb the spread of infection,” Gehlot has said.
He has alleged that the BJP leaders have violated the COVID-19 guidelines during the election campaigning.
“The BJP Union ministers, such as Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Kailash Chaudhary and Arjun Meghwal, along with state leaders, such as leader of opposition Gulab Chand Kataria and his deputy Rajendra Rathore, campaigned and violated Corona guidelines,” he has added.
1,775 wards of 50 ULBs in 12 districts of Rajasthan have gone to the polls recently. The Congress has won 619 wards while the BJP has secured 548 wards. The BJP’s share is lower than that of independents who emerged victorious in 596 wards.
On the other hand, the BSP has won seven wards, CPI and CPI (M) two each, and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party only one ward.
The Congress has formed the board in 36 out of 50 ULBs, while the BJP could form in 12 ULBs. Independents have formed the boards in two ULBs.