BJP, Congress on edge before Rajya Sabha polls

Rajasthan is all set for Rajya Sabha elections on June 11 with four seats in the reckoning. There are five candidates for these four seats. Majority party BJP with 160 MLAs and support of four independent MLAs were rejoicing for an easy sail through when industrialist Kamal Morarka put a spanner in their plans by filing his nomination.

Morarka claims to have the support of Congress and Independents and has clearly upset BJP’s dream of winning all the four seats easily from Rajasthan.

Morarka was a former Rajya Sabha MP from 1988 to 1994. A jittery BJP has now issued a whip to its MLAs and actually barricaded them in an undisclosed location (rumours are that they are at hotel on Ajmer road) for a training camp to avoid the cross voting, which may just tip the scales in Morarka’s favour. They are also said to be holding dummy Rajya Sabha election sessions so that nothing wrong goes on the actual day. BJP has 160 of its legislatures and four independent MLAs, totalling to 164. All the four BJP candidates need 41 votes each on the first preference basis. Union Minister Venkiah Naidu, senior leader Om Mathur , Harshvardhan Singh and retired Dalit officer from Reserve Bank of India, Ram Kumar Verma are the candidates from BJP.
Meanwhile Congress is keeping a close watch on the rebels i.e the disgruntled MLAs in the BJP camp, who may just cross over to Moraka’s side.
Morarka has the support of four MLAs from National People’s Party. He requires the 41 first priority votes to get elected to the Rajya Sabha. He has three votes from Bahujan Samaj Party and some Independent legislatures. All the non-BJP votes total upto 36. So Morarka now needs just five cross votes to win a seat to Rajya Sabha. He will probably not get any support from two MLAs of National Unioinist Zamindara Party,

Morarka is the founder and chairman of the Morarka Organics, and has been instrumental in reviving organic farming in Shkhawati region. He has been able to make a difference in lives of the rural people in the most backward areas of Rajasthan, like the Shekhawati region ( 140 km from here) .
Although Morarka grew up in Mumbai, he kept coming back to Shekhawati region as a child as it was the seat of his ancestral home. His Morarka Foundation promotes rural enterprise, education for girls, environment protection and preservation of heritage and local culture of Shekhawati region. A selection of his impassioned and witty speeches in Parliament was recently published by Rupa and Company in both English and Hindi and made it to the national bestseller list last year.

Morarka was part of the Prime Minister’s Office during Chandra Shekhar years. His six years in Parliament saw four Prime Ministers in office Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar and PV Narsimha Rao. But Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh’s recent comment that Congress PM Rajiv Gandhi was not very keen on Morarka when he was chosen by Chandrasekhar,is going to be used by the BJP against Morarka and mock about Congress’s support for him.

A social worker, politician and an industrialist, Morarka had bought statue of Mahatma Gandhi in an auction in 2012 in Britain. He had brought 29 items of Gandhi memorabilia comprising his spectacles, wooden charkha, Gandhi’s signed prayer book, letters and others with an amount exceeding a lakh pound. The purchase was done through the Kamal Morarka Foundation for the Arts (KMFA) at a sale done by Mullock’s, a Shropshire-based auctioneer.

He had said then: “I am delighted to acquire the items, which are of national interest. I would be happier had the government acquired them.”

But political observers say Morarka’s candidature is more to do with BJP leader Om Mathur’s so-called rivalry with Chief Minister Vasundhar Raje rather than Congress’s support. Raje has always opposed Mathur’s Rajya Sabha nomination and also his fondness for the state president’s job. Mathur is said to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has been given the task of looking after Uttar Pradesh for assembly polls. So Modi wants him to strengthen his position.

BJP’s other candidate Harshvardhan Singh is an erstwhile royal from Dungarpur , which has family ties with Rajkot royals of Gujarat, who is also said to be close to Modi. But Morarka may find it easy to target Harshvardhan as he doesn’t have much support in BJP itself. Raje is not opposed to the candidature of Naidu and Verma.

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