The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan faces an uphill battle in the byelections to an Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats, with strong resentment prevailing among various caste groups and major sections among farmers and traders. The January 29 bypolls will provide an opportunity to the Congress to turn the scales in its favour.The Alwar and the Ajmer Lok Sabha seats and the Mandalgarh Assembly seat in Bhilwara district were earlier held by the BJP. Ajmer MP Sanwar Lal Jat collapsed at a meeting in Jaipur and died on August 9, while Alwar MP Mahant Chand Nath died on September 17 following a prolonged illness. Mandalgarh MLA Kirti Kumari died of swine flu on August 28. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, for whom the byelections are going to be an acid test, has been touring the three regions over the past two months. However, the ruling party is yet to finalise its candidates.The Congress has announced former MP Karan Singh Yadav as its candidate for Alwar. The Opposition party has been gaining strength in the desert State, especially after its improved performance in the Assembly election in neighbouring Gujarat. The stature of former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who was the Congress’s election in-charge in Gujarat, has increased after the election results.Gujjar agitationAgitated over the State government’s failure to give them 5% reservation, Gujjars have announced that they will invite Patidar leader from Gujarat, Hardik Patel, to campaign in Rajasthan for voting against the BJP.The politically influential Rajput community, which had earlier traditionally supported the BJP, has been angry ever since the encounter death of gangster Anandpal Singh in June. The CBI, which had earlier turned down the State’s request for an investigation into Anandpal’s death, has now agreed to take up the investigation, but the political damage will be beyond repair.The farmers, who launched a prolonged agitation earlier this year with the demand for a crop loan waiver, are mulling over entering the electoral fray. All India Kisan Sabha president Amra Ram has said that farmers would not allow the BJP to divide them on the basis of caste and religion.Amid all these challenges, the BJP seems to be relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “crowd-puller”. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria said here on Saturday that there would be no challenge for the BJP with Mr. Modi “being around”. “Mr. Modi is working hard for the progress of India. God has sent him to take care of our nation,” he said.The BJP government has invited Mr. Modi for laying the foundation stone of the Barmer oil refinery on January 14 despite a strong protest registered by the Congress. Mr. Gehlot pointed said United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi had already laid the foundation stone in 2013 and Mr. Modi’s visit to Barmer just before by-elections would amount to a violation of the model code of conduct.In an indication of dissension within the party, BJP State president Ashok Parnami told reporters here that the party’s election committee had sent the panels of probable candidates for bypolls to the Parliamentary Board and was waiting for its decision.
After putting students’ union polls on hold for over two years in four State universities, the West Bengal government has allowed the varsities to conduct elections whenever they deem appropriate. A letter in this regard was sent by the Higher Education Department to the V-Cs of Jadavpur University, Presidency University, Rabindra Bharati University and Diamond Harbour Women’s University.