Apr 18 2014 | 11:00 AM

BATTLE FOR BARMER, OLD VS NEW BJP ORDER

Who: TheCitizen | What: Politics
Where: New Delhi | WHEN: April 18th, 2014 , 11:00AM
THE CITIZEN BUREAU Thu Apr 17, 2014

NEW DELHI: Barmer, the sprawling Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan, has become the fulcrum of the old versus the new BJP order. It was witness to an intense electoral battle between a Congress-turned-BJP candidate Sonaram and old BJP stalwart and senior Minister in the NDA government, now expelled, Jaswant Singh.

The intensity was reflected in a record 71 per cent polling with Barmer registering a 17 percent increase since the last elections.

The BJP insistence to field Sonaram who was with the Congress till the eve of the elections, resulting in a palpable sympathy wave for Singh who decided to contest the polls as an Independent candidate. Sonaram as a Congress candidate had lost the elections in 2004 to Jaswant Singh’s son Manvender Singh by a record 2,70,000 votes simply because he had alienated sections of the vote bank during his term as MP. This was the first time that the BJP secured this seat with the Jat vote shifting almost entirely to this party.


In the elections now, the roles have been reversed, the Congress candidate has become the BJP candidate, and BJP strongman Jaswant Singh is contesting as an Independent. Sources said that Singh could benefit from a consolidation of the Rajput, OBC, Muslim, SC and ST vote from Barmer as he has good relations with the communities who are also visibly fed up of Sonaram and his brand of “rather aggressive” politics in the constituency. Interestingly Muslim leaders from Barmer had travelled with Jaswant Singh to Pakistan in a much publicised journey.

The sympathy, local sources said, had increased for Singh after Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia who was adamant that he not be given the seat, has mobilised all resources to defeat him. Singh has, however, held his own and given the high percentage of the polling and the low key performance of the Congress candidate and sitting MP Harish Choudhary, his supporters are very optimistic of winning this seat. His son Manvendra campaigned for him, and was also expelled from the BJP.

Barmer thus has become a symbol of the old order in the BJP that has been sidelined in these elections versus what a senior described as the “Modi and Amit Shah raj.” More so as another former BJP and now Independent candidate Subhash Maharia is set to win the elections from Sikar parliamentary constituency. The Citizen had reported that Modi had to wait to address a meeting in the area because of the absence of crowds, while Maharia was addressing a huge rally at about the same time.

The presence of a “Modi wave” that pollsters, publicists and media channels insist is overtaking India is being stoutly denied not by the legit opposition, but by senior leaders who were running the show in the BJP till just before these polls.

Both Varanasi sitting MP, Murli Manohar Joshi, who has been shunted to Kanpur much against his will, Murli Manohar Joshi and Singh have made it clear that there is no wave for Modi. Joshi said that if there is a wave it is only for the BJP and not an individual. Singh said that there certainly was no Modi wave “certainly here in Barmer.” And raising the flag of dissension he made it clear that Modi in his view was just a Chief Minister and that LK Advani would have been a far better prime ministerial candidate.

The BJP in UP is demoralised and resentful with several key leaders having been pushed to the fringes. In Varanasi for instance, if a poll is taken within the BJP, the most unpopular leader would be Amit Shah who is managing UP for Modi and is widely credited by the party for completely dismantling the existing organisation. In fact, the Congress campaign in Varanasi addresses this anger with Shah by pointing out that by voting for Modi, the electorate would be voting for Shah. As one of the local leaders told The Citizen, “if Modi wins from here and Vadodara he will give up this seat for Amit Shah so in effect the people here will be voting for Shah and not Modi.”

LK Advani who was also very unhappy with the personality cult being propagated by the RSS and sections of the BJP in support of Modi, finally swallowed his anger, and agreed to contest the elections from Gandhinagar after a slight show of rebellion. However, sources said that he was far from appeased and was waiting for the election results to determine the next strategy.

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