Crisis of candidates grips Congress, BJP in Rajasthan

Jaipur: With both the Congress and the BJP stressing on the winnability of candidates as the prime factor in the distribution of tickets, the parties face a strange predicament in Rajasthan. Both fielded most of their winnable candidates in the Assembly elections and are now facing a severe dearth of faces for the Lok Sabha polls.

The Congress is loathed to field legislators with a strong support base due to its wafer-thin majority in the state assembly.

“We reached the majority figure of 101 in the 200-member Assembly after a very tough fight. We are standing on the edge and any risk can spell doom for us in the House. So the party refused to take any chances and allow its MLAs to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

“But the air strikes in Balakot have changed the public sentiment. We can’t take chances by fielding any Tom, Dick, and Harry. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has become stronger with the changed political narrative and we need to come out strong too,” a Congress minister told IANS.

In the changed circumstances, the Congress is planning to field Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi from Jaipur, ignoring other Brahmin faces from the constituency, Mahesh Sharma and Archana Sharma.

“Jaipur has many eligible faces, but because the seat is a Brahmin stronghold we need to zero in on a Brahmin face,” the Congress leader said.

Mahesh Sharma has won and lost each of the last two Lok Sabha elections, while Archana Sharma, a state vice president, lost the Assembly elections. So the party needs a fresh face, Congress sources said.

BJP MLA Satish Punia couldn’t resist a dig at the ruling party’s predicament. “The Congress fielded all its winnable candidates in the Assembly elections, so a crisis of candidates looms over the party,” Punia told IANS.

But, another senior BJP leader confessed that his party’s situation is no different.
“The BJP’s strong candidates are now MLAs while the other senior leaders have lost the elections. Hence the party leadership is struggling to find fresh faces,” he explained.

The party is considering Union Cultural and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma for a ticket from Alwar, his home town. Sharma represented UP’s Gautam Budh Nagar constituency in the outgoing Lok Sabha. His name came up after BJP’s dependable Sanjay Sharma won the Assembly election from Alwar.

However, a local leader said Sharma contesting from Alwar may not augur well for the party as he has not done anything in his home town. “So, how can he bring in trust among voters? There is a need for the party to think in this direction,” he added.

The other worrying trend for the parties is their internal rifts. From Bikaner for example, which is a reserved seat, BJP’s dependable seven-term MLA Devi Singh Bhati recently resigned from the party after reports that it was yet again planning to field its MP, Arjun Meghwal for the Lok Sabha elections.

Thirteen of Rajasthan’s 25 constituencies will vote in the fourth phase of the seven-phased general elections on April 29, while the remaining 12 will vote in the fifth phase on May 6.