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The Hindu
The Hindu
Special Correspondent

Congress, BJP try to outdo each other in Rajasthan before RS polls

The ruling Congress and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Rajasthan are trying to outdo each other in the run-up to the Rajya Sabha elections for four seats, with both parties approaching statutory bodies with their complaints. After the pleas made to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Election Commission of India (EC), the powers of Enforcement Directorate (ED) have also been invoked.

The Congress has demanded registration of a first information report (FIR) against the BJP-backed Independent candidate, Subhash Chandra, as well as the BJP leaders, while alleging that they were attempting horse-trading of MLAs ahead of the June 10 polling. Congress’s deputy chief whip Mahendra Chaudhary wrote to the Chief Election Commissioner with the demand on June 7.

On the other hand, the BJP has sent a complaint to the ED and the Election Commission over allegations of misuse of office by the Congress government, violation of the model code of conduct, and intimidation of MLAs, accompanied by attempts at horse-trading. The Congress has described the complaint as a “ridiculous move” and said it was aimed at letting the ED enter the State.

Chief whip and Cabinet Minister Mahesh Joshi, who had earlier made a complaint to the ACB regarding the attempts at poaching, said in Jaipur on June 8 that the Congress had 126 votes against the 123 required for winning three of the four Rajya Sabha seats. He said media baron Mr. Chandra was a de facto BJP candidate, fielded by the party as an Independent to escape from the blame of his defeat.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on June 8 reiterated his charge that the BJP had extended support to Mr. Chandra with the intention to poach the legislators of other parties. Mr. Chandra had himself claimed that eight MLAs of the Congress could vote for him and asked former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot to cross sides.

“Our party and our MLAs are united. The three candidates fielded by the Congress are certain to win,” Mr. Gehlot told reporters in Udaipur, where Congress MLAs and Independents were sequestered at a resort. He said the BJP’s “conspiracy” in horse-trading had not succeeded and the party’s intention was clear since the beginning, when it backed the Independent candidate despite not having sufficient numbers.

While the Bharatiya Tribal Party, which has two members in the State Assembly, has announced its support to the Congress candidates, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), which also has two MLAs, is likely to make its stand clear by June 9. The party has already stated that it would not support the BJP, to which it was “ideologically opposed”.

CPI(M) State Secretary Amra Ram told The Hindu on June 8 that since the Rajya Sabha elections had national ramifications, the party’s Politburo would take an appropriate decision and convey it to the State unit. “As far as the Independent candidate is concerned, it is quite evident that he enjoys the backing of the BJP. BJP leaders were present when he filed his papers,” Mr. Ram said.

The two CPI(M) MLAs, Balwan Poonia (from Bhadra) and Girdhari Lal Mahiya (from Dungargarh) are farmer leaders who were at the forefront of peasant struggles launched from Leftist platforms during the previous BJP regime in the State. Both of them have a track record of fighting for farmers’ rights along with activists of the All India Kisan Sabha. Mr. Mahiya, 63, was a debt-ridden farmer when he won the 2018 Assembly election.

The Congress, which expects victory at three seats, has fielded Mukul Wasnik, Randeep Surjewala and Pramod Tiwari as its candidates. The BJP, which has 71 members in the House, has fielded former Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari as its official candidate, and extended support to Mr. Chandra. The party needs 11 votes to touch 82 for winning two seats.

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