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A Party With a Difference or Differences? Ticket Tangles Rock BJP in Rajasthan

As protests explode, pacifying warring factions is now a huge headache for the BJP.

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For years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has prided itself on being a 'party with a difference’ and made tall claims of being superior to the Congress and other parties. But in Rajasthan, the slogan now has little value as it seems a 'party with differences’ where massive protests have erupted after the release of its two lists of candidates for the upcoming elections.

From the desert zone in the West to the lush Eastern belt of the state, the BJP is battling a storm of revolts and public protests.

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The second list where BJP biggies virtually raised a white flag to placate former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and stem the flood of protests has failed to do the trick. After dropping some of her key supporters in the first list, Raje was sought to be mollified by including many of her loyalists among the 83 candidates declared on 22 October.

By giving prominence to the Raje camp, the BJP hoped to curtail chances of internal sabotage and quell the rising tide of rebellion by ticket aspirants and their supporters.
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Anger and Discontent Brew in BJP Camp

Despite these pious hopes, large-scale protests have erupted in several districts after the second list. Supporters of rebel leaders are protesting strongly in Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Kota, Jaipur, Alwar, and Bundi. Protests by BJP workers have spilled onto the streets in these districts and loyalists of aspirants denied tickets, have burnt effigies of top party leaders.

The most volatile and embarrassing protests have erupted in Chittorgarh the home turf of state BJP President CP Joshi. The two-time sitting Chittorgarh MLA Chandrabhan Singh Aakya was dropped from this seat to accommodate Narpat Singh Rajvi, a former Minister and son-in-law of former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Ironically, Rajvi was shifted from Jaipur’s Vidyadhar Nagar seat where Rajsamand MP Diya Kumari was given the ticket in the first list.

Protesting vigorously, Aakya supporters even burnt an effigy of state president Joshi in his own hometown and Lok Sabha constituency. The anger of protesting BJP cadres forced security at Joshi’s residence in Chittor to be strengthened after stones were hurled at his gate.

For denying him a ticket, Aakya squarely blames Joshi and claims it's rooted in their rivalry since college days. Raking up Joshi’s roots in the Congress, Aakya says Joshi resented him since the days he was an ABVP (RSS’ student's wing) leader and Joshi was working with NSUI, the Congress students’ wing.

With Aakya threatening to contest as an Independent, this is one ticket tangle that has the Saffron brigade in a huge twist.
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In nearby Rajsamand, protests against sitting MLA Deepti Maheshwari being fielded are no less severe. Supporters of ticket aspirants Dinesh Badala, Ganesh Paliwal, and Mahendra Kothari vandalised the BJP office, damaged furniture, ransacked election-related material, and lit bonfires in front of the party office. Ultimately, the police was called in to control the situation and the BJP's state disciplinary committee suspended four members from the party’s primary membership for damaging party property and instigating violence.

In Udaipur, the city’s deputy mayor Paras Singhvi is openly opposing the ticket to Tarachand Jain and wants the BJP to revoke its decision. Singhvi also took aim at Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria who was earlier the Udaipur MLA. He alleges that despite becoming Governor, Kataria is still “interfering in local politics” to deny him a ticket.

In Jaipur, supporters of sitting Sanganer MLA Ashok Lahoty protested vociferously at the BJP office on Sunday. A known Raje loyalist, Lahoty has been replaced with Bhajan Lal Sharma. Loud protests by Lahoti loyalists at the BJP office revived memories of a similar outcry earlier by supporters of Rajpal Singh, another Raje loyalist, dropped in the first list.

In Kishangarh, Vikas Choudhary, BJP candidate in the 2018 polls, was replaced by Ajmer MP Bhagirath Chaudhary. Besides major protests, when supporters gathered at his home, Vikas broke down in tears. Addressing party workers, he alleged that BJP had politically assassinated him and claimed he was denied a ticket due to financial reasons. A known Raje loyalist, Vikas joined the Congress today at a Priyanka Gandhi rally in Jhunjhunu district. 

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Protests Peak Around 'Outsider vs Insider’ Debate

A fortnight after the first list, protests continue to simmer and the seven MPs given tickets remain the biggest targets of BJP workers and leaders.

Among the MPs fielded, Rajyavardhan Rathore is facing the toughest time. When the Jaipur Rural MP and now BJP’s Jhotwara candidate Rathore went to seek divine blessings at a temple, he was shown black flags by BJP workers supporting Rajpal Singh.

Using 'Gandhigiri’, Rathore even tried to offer laddus to the protesters. But angry BJP cadres claim that Rajpal Singh, Jhotwara’s former MLA has served their area for long and they won’t accept an 'outsider.’

Rathore has also been confronted with a special slogan, ‘Colonel kehna maan le, Boria bistar bandh le’ (Colonel, follow our advice, pack your bags and return) as Rajpal loyalists are in no mood to relent.
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Similarly, in Jalore, BJP MP Devji Patel's cavalcade was pelted with stones by people protesting against his nomination from Sanchore. Though he escaped unhurt, vehicles in his motorcade were badly damaged. An FIR was registered at the Sanchore police station against the attackers, believed to be supporters of Danaram Choudhary, an aspirant for the ticket from Sanchore.

Patel has tried to placate his chief rivals, Jeewaram Chaudhary and Danaram Chaudhary, but protests continue unabated. Likewise, Alwar MP Baba Balak Nath, fielded for the Tijara seat, and Jhunjhunu MP Narendra Kumar fielded from Mandawa are facing serious trouble from local leaders and cadres.

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Ticketing Spar Exposes Deeper Fault Lines in BJP

Overall, the BJP’s assumed masterstroke of fielding MPs has gone awry. While in the first of 41 candidates, the BJP gave tickets to seven MPs, not one MP has been fielded in the much-larger second list of 83 candidates, a telling fact on how the strategy has backfired.

The big question now is whether Jodhpur MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat will be fielded in the upcoming list as he’s seen as a favourite of the BJP top brass and a major chief ministerial aspirant. Talk of any other MPs being fielded has simply died down.

With massive protests in over two dozen seats, the BJP's claims of being a disciplined entity lie in tatters. For years, the BJP has professed to be a cadre-based force that fights for ideology not narrow interests of Netas as Saffron stalwarts project other parties.
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To quell dissent, the party formed a special committee under Barmer MP Kailash Chaudhary but protests raging for over two weeks are embarrassing the BJP in Rajasthan.

Over the past five years, the deep divide in the state BJP has been no secret. With several leaders nurturing CM ambitions, the Rajasthan BJP has been plagued by fissures whereby the party failed to mount major agitations and lost most by-polls.

As protests explode, pacifying warring factions is now a huge headache for the BJP. They also raise grave questions about the top-down, over-centralised system of ticket allocation.
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BJP workers in most areas say nobody listens to them and on condition of anonymity, even local leaders admit their views are getting no weightage.

The ticket tangles and massive protests in Rajasthan are creating a dubious public perception about the BJP's ‘Chaal, Charitra, Chehra’ which no party would want on the eve of a poll battle. Well before taking on the ruling Congress, the BJP needs to set its own house in order or else its chances of electoral success may be badly dented.

(The author is a veteran journalist and expert on Rajasthan politics. Besides serving as a Resident Editor at NDTV, he has been a Professor of Journalism at the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur. He tweets at @rajanmahan. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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