Jaipur March 17 : Winning the Dholpur bypoll on April 9 may be a prestige issue for both BJP and Congress in the desert state, but the choice of candidates of both the parties, leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
While BJP could only find Shobharani Kushwah, wife of the seating B L Kushwah, convicted for murder, as its candidate, Congress had to fall back on former MLA Banwari Lal Sharma, 76, to face its strong opposition candidate.
The Dholpur seat fell vacant after Kushwah’s membership from the Legislative Assembly was terminated following his conviction in a murder case.
Kushwah, who was a BSP MLA then in 2012, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in connection with a murder case of 2002. The court had found Kushwah guilty of executing the murder of Naresh Kushwaha on December 27. He was booked under sections 302 and 120 B of IPC and subsequently arrested by state CID-Crime Branch.
Although, Kushwah had rubbished the allegations saying he was deliberately implicated in the murder case by the then ruling BJP government. In July, 2014, the Rajasthan High Court had dismissed anticipatory bail application of the Dholpur MLA on the ground that he was charged with a heinous crime.
The body of Naresh Kushwaha was found in Jheel ka Pura village falling under Sadar Thana of Dholpur district. Later, the deceased’s brother Than Singh had lodged a case against five persons. Following preliminary investigation, police had arrested gunman Singh who confessed involvement of MLA Kushwaha in the murder.
Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Kailash Meghwal terminated Kushwah’s membership from the House on Dec 13, 2016.
Incidentally BJP candidate Shobharani Kushwah is said to be an accused, along with her husband, in a chit fund fraud case filed against their financial company. There are complaints of the company having cheated innocent investors by promising high returns on fixed and recurring deposits.
Shobharani was inducted into BJP in February this year in the presence of senior party leaders, with much fanfare. The past history of the Kushwahs is not a matter of introspection for the BJP, say political observers. The immediate need is to win the seat and that can definitely be easier with presence and support of about 1.82 lakh voters in the constituency from the Kushwah’s caste. And that perhaps is the single most consideration for choosing Shobharani from amongst many other aspiring candidates.
Though Dholpur has usually been a BJP stronghold due to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s connection with it (Raje was married to Dholpur scion Hemant Singh), yet it received a setback in 2013 elections, when it could only win one out of the four seats. BJP won the reserved constituency of Baseri, while Dholpur went to BSP and Bari and Rajakhera to Congress. So this time winning the Dholpur seat is not only important but a matter of its reputation and influence in the region.
Under seize from the BJP in states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and also Manipur and Goa, where it could not form the government, the Congress here in Rajasthan seems fragmented and in disarray.
With reports of internal bickerings in the Congress, the party has not been able to find a single eligible candidate other than 76 year old Banwari Lal to fight against Shobharani. Although sources say a reluctant Sharma wanted his son, Ashok Sharma to get the ticket, the High Command and state leaders decided that since the younger Sharma, although active, does not have many supporters amongst party workers, hence it is best to depend on the old brigade.
Some observers say Congress is already resigned to defeat and hence is not too keen giving a tough fight to the BJP. How much can an aged Sharma campaign is not something, which the Congress has dwelt upon, it seems.
But the choice of candidates in Dholpur is a microcosm of the way the parties actually make their choices everywhere, especially in Rajasthan, where caste plays a major role. But it definitely raises questions of whether our democracy is really thriving or is in the decline?