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Udaipur Killing: Why Is Rajasthan CM Gehlot Struggling to Maintain Law & Order?

From rapes to petty crimes, the state has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately.

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The killing of Kanhaiya Lal by religious zealots in Udaipur has again revealed the gaps in the working of the Rajasthan police. The case highlights carelessness on part of the local police, because as per reports, the victim had approached them after he received life threats and his shop was 'recced' by unscrupulous elements.

SP Manoj Kumar, visibly, had no clue about the incident when he reached the spot. Now, the local SHO and an assistant sub-inspector dealing with Kanhaiya Lal’s complaint have been suspended.

Snapshot
  • The killing of Kanhaiya Lal by religious zealots in Udaipur has again revealed the gaps in the working of the Rajasthan police.

  • As per reports, the victim had approached the police after he received life threats and his shop was 'recced' by unscrupulous elements.

  • The Chief Minister’s sharp focus on MLAs and political opponents has led a few top police officials in Rajasthan to keep tabs on MLAs and political rivals for managing political crises

  • The increasing number of rape cases of minors, atrocities against women and burgeoning petty crimes clearly hint at a breakdown.

  • The killing of Kanhaiya Lal is bound to reverberate in the 28 assembly seats of the Mewar region in southern Rajasthan in the next assembly election due in December 2023. The ripple effects will also be felt in the neighbouring districts of Chittorgarh, Pratapgarh and Bhilwara.

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More Heads Need to Roll

The policemen responsible for taking decisive steps to prevent such heinous crimes are still in control. SP Manoj Kumar and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Hinglaz Dan – who was recently named in an alleged extortion case – were directly responsible for analysing intelligence, coordinating with agencies, and taking action.

Additionally, the Director-General of Police (DGP), ML Lather, was busy negotiating a truce between the Jodhpur administration and politician Hanuman Beniwal, late on Tuesday night, when assailants were preparing to hit Kanhaiya Lal the next day.

Why Rajasthan Is in the News for All the Wrong Reasons

In his third term, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has chosen to remain with the Home Ministry due to incessant political activities in the rival camps.

The Chief Minister’s sharp focus on MLAs and political opponents has led a few top police officials in Rajasthan to keep tabs on MLAs and political rivals for managing political crises.

Rajendra Yadav, Gehlot’s protégé, who has a wide interest in mining the outskirts of Jaipur, was made Minister of State in charge of the Home Department in the wake of the nationwide media outcry a few months ago over rapes of minor girls and deteriorating law and order in Rajasthan. But Yadav has proved to be just a loyal aide.

Of late, Rajasthan has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, mostly related to the law and order situation on the ground. The increasing number of rape cases of minors, atrocities against women and burgeoning petty crimes clearly hint at a breakdown.

It is not that the Rajasthan police have not acted against crimes. Yes, in almost all rape cases, the perpetrators have been arrested. But deterrence is a different story.

What Will Be the Political Repercussions for Congress?

The brutal murder of Kanhaiya Lal will have strong political repercussions in Rajasthan. Ashok Gehlot may be considered a political “magician”, but he has always depended on sub-par bureaucrats to run the show.

This reflects badly on the administration and can endanger the political prospects of the Congress. Remember, Gehlot has never won a back-to-back election in Rajasthan, a basic requirement to graduate from a “wily” player to a “great” politician.

There is a political saying in Rajasthan, “Whoever wins Mewar, rules Jaipur”. The killing of Kanhaiya Lal is bound to reverberate in the 28 assembly seats of the Mewar region in southern Rajasthan in the next assembly election due in December 2023.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan was already trying to achieve “maximum” polarisation, with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) cadres working diligently on the ground. Though most of the seats in the Mewar region are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST), religious polarisation and the presence of the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), or its breakaway faction with local youth leadership, are going to pose a grave challenge to the Congress’s fortunes in southern Rajasthan.

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BJP Will Look to Cash In on the Crisis

The ripple effect of the Udaipur incident is also going to be felt in the neighbouring districts of Chittorgarh, Pratapgarh and Bhilwara. Bhim in Rajasamand and Asind in Bhilwara, where Gos Mohammad and Riyas Attari hailed from, have already seen local-level flares in recent times.

The Gehlot government is having a hard time controlling extremist elements in the state as police officials in Rajasthan focus more on illegal mining, poppy husk and liquor smuggling, encroachment, and construction mafia, while local thanas (police stations) stay happy keeping a tab on petty gangs flourishing under their nose. Chief Minister Gehlot had himself conceded once that he regrets not being able to solve the sand mining issue.

Sources say that a recent internal survey of the Congress projected a mere 22 seats in the 2023 assembly elections for the party. But on the ground, even these numbers look ambitious with each passing month. Some political pundits even say that the BJP could get over 190 out of 200 seats in Rajasthan if it resolves its leadership issue by dumping the “glorious” past, ie, Vasundhara Raje, the “mediocre” present, ie, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Satish Poonia, and embraces a “brilliant” future, ie, Diya Kumari or any other person from the next generation.

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Polarisation Can Exact a Heavy Price

Moreover, with the rising influence of Hanuman Beniwal in the Marwar region, some say that even Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot would find it difficult to win his Sardarpura seat in Jodhpur again in 2023. Polarisation can also affect the fortunes of Sachin Pilot, as Tonk is likely to become a pitched battle given the local caste equations and continuous communal flares in nearby Malpura.

In all, religious polarisation in Rajasthan is going to peak in the coming months – an opportune time for the BJP. Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM has already opened a state office, with the hopes of becoming at least a top “vote cutter” in the next assembly election. If incidents of Karauli were an “experiment”, it is the Gehlot government that failed to act in time.

The Congress party led by Ashok Gehlot carries the burden of the “last generation” of leadership, incapable of winning the next election in the next battle. But the blame also lies with Gehlot himself, who has never looked beyond his immediate survival; placating and dangling carrots to his opponents has been his preferred strategy. What Ashok Gehlot lacks is a connection with the youth and an understanding of the aspirations of the next generation.

The next assembly election in Rajasthan is going to be fought between a “magician” bereft of any new tricks up his sleeves and a resurgent BJP riding on communal polarisation and looking for a generational change. But for the Congress, Rajasthan remains the only hope. And Gehlot is its best bet.

(Arvind Singh is a senior journalist based in Jaipur. He tweets @DrArvind_Singh. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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