With election season due in the country, the political parties have started focusing on strengthening their holds in the five-states for the upcoming Assembly elections. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are the three of five states where the BJP is in power and looks forward to retain its hold. If rumors are to be believed, Rajasthan probably will be the one giving maximum challenges to the ruling party in the upcoming elections. In its bid to increase party’s influence in Rajasthan, Congress has welcomed former BJP heavyweight Jaswant Singh’s son and ex-MLA Manvendra Singh in its fold. INC believed that by having Rajput leader in the party it could increase its chances of winning the Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency and other nearby areas having significant Rajput population. The plan however, seems to have backfired from the very start. It has led to unrest within the party itself. Former Congress parliamentarian, Harish Chaudhary who is a prominent Jat leader from the same constituency, has been the face of Congress since the past decade. Rajputs and Jats are political rivals in Rajasthan and the inclusion of Manvendra Singh in Congress will have bad implications on the ability of Congress to attract and retain Jat votes. Meanwhile, a slogan prospers in Rajasthan- Jat ki roti, Jat ka vote, pehle Jat ko. On the other hand, Hanuman Beniwal, an outed BJP leader has formed his own party, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) and seeks to act as the third option in Rajasthan elections.
Beniwal had revolted against the BJP following which he was expelled from the party. He contested 2013 state assembly elections as an independent candidate and emerged victorious on Khinwsar seat of Nagore district. This time, ahead of the upcoming state assembly elections, he has formed his own party. All the disgruntled BJP leaders who are angry with the incumbent CM Vasundhara Raje have united under the umbrella of RLP. Their main goal is to provide voters of Rajasthan with a third option. Their end goal is to return to the BJP with bargaining power in their hands. The rebel leaders do not have issues with the BJP but are unhappy with CM Vasundhara Raje and the case appears the same among the Rajasthan voters. In fact, in this election season, a slogan goes trending in Rajasthan: “Modi tujhse bair nahi, Vasundhra teri khair nahi.”
The RLP and its patriots are hoping to grab all the anti-BJP votes as well as Jat votes, comprising 12 to 14 percent of the electorate. Beniwal’s presence is likely to attract a huge chunk of Jat votes in the favor of RLP. Beniwal is trying level best to alienate Jat voters from the Congress by launching a blistering attack against the former Congress CM Ashok Gehlot who is disliked by the Jats. With 12 to 14 percent Jat votes, he can seriously spoil the game of the candidates of the BJP and the Congress as well.
In all this, the Congress would be the biggest loser as they will neither get the anti-BJP votes nor the Jat votes. Hanuman Beniwal wants to play the kingmaker’s role in case of hung assembly as HD Kumaraswamy did in Karnataka. If that happens, they would go for the BJP minus Vasundhra. The same thing seems to have happened in Goa but with a difference. After the Goa assembly elections, some coalition partners of the ruling state government had refused to be the part of any coalition without Manohar Parrikar at the helm of its affairs.
In case of a hung assembly in Rajasthan, the kingmakers would demand a BJP government without Vasundhra at the helm of governance in the state. So, overall, in the long run, Beniwal’s rise is only going to help the BJP directly or indirectly. There are rumors that the BJP would contest upcoming crucial Lok Sabha election in Rajasthan with a new face in order to placate the people of Rajasthan and the party leaders who are not happy with Vasundhara Raje. In such condition, if Hanuman Beniwal joins the party under new leadership then it would immensely benefit the BJP in Lok Sabha elections as it will have access to the larger voter base.
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