Jaipur, May 19: Close on the heels of Gujjar youths heckling Congress leaders as they sought Scheduled Tribe status, it is the BJP’s turn now to bear the brunt of reservationists.
Rajput youths demanding economic reservation have regularly disturbed Vasundhara Raje’s Parivartan Yatra in Pali and Jalore, forcing the police and BJP workers to beat them back. Party general secretary Pramod Mahajan was present as reservationists went on the rampage.
The state BJP president failed to pacify the youths despite saying she agreed with the reservation demand in principle. The second phase of Raje’s tour of the southwestern districts that began on May 13 ended yesterday. The third phase of the yatra begins on Wednesday.
Recently, Gujjar youths targeted Congress leaders, including AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan Ambika Soni, at a rally in Ajmer. They were demanding ST status instead of the Other Backward Classes tag that they enjoy currently.
Rajputs organised under the banner of the Samajik Nyaya Manch (Social Justice Forum) have been demanding reservation for over two years. They have organised many big rallies recently, attracting crowds of 50,000 to 1,00,000.
Though leaders from several parties participated in the meetings, the BJP did not mind as party MLA Devi Singh Bhati and a former party activist, Lokendra Singh Kalvi, were involved with the rallies. The BJP is aware that Bhati and Kalvi are proteges of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. It was at the latter’s instance that Raje was drafted to head the state unit as part of a package under which Shekhawat shifted to New Delhi as Vice-President.
Mahajan and Raje were caught on the wrong foot when the BJP accused the Congress, especially chief minister Ashok Gehlot, of being behind the rally violence. The duo soon came to know that a number of Rajput youths enjoying the patronage of district BJP leaders who owe allegiance to Bhati and Kalvi had gone on the rampage along with some Congress workers. The miscreants raised slogans and damaged the dais. This lead to scuffles with BJP workers and a police lathicharge.
State BJP spokesperson Kali Charan Saraf today released a list of 13 Congress office-bearers who were reportedly seen among the reservationists at Raje’s meetings. The list features joint PCC secretary Shishu Pal Singh Rajawat, member of the Jodhpur Urban Development Trust Hanuman Singh, Pali district Seva Dal chief Jabbar Singh, a few panchayat samity pradhans and some block-level Congress office-bearers. All of them are Rajputs.
Many senior BJP leaders feel the party should work out its stand on reservations as it has supported the demand in the past. Some of them told The Telegraph they had been warning the leadership about the “autonomous” behaviour of Bhati, a minister in the former Shekhawat government. Bhati is known for his short temper and indiscipline.
Saraf said the BJP will consider all these issues when state and national leaders meet in Jaipur next week.
Bhati, who also heads the Samajik Nyaya Manch, said the forum will organise a reception in Pali on May 20 for three BJP office-bearers who have been expelled from the party. The trio are Pali city youth wing chief Girdhari Singh, Harish Gaur, and Roopesh Dadheech, who belongs to the Rani block.
Bhati said the expulsions were an attempt to crush the manch’s activities. He wondered why no action was taken against those who shared the dais with the trio and deviated from their party stand.
Bhati and Kalvi, both Rajputs, began organising reservation rallies long before the manch was floated. Once the manch was set up, Satya Narain Singh, a retired IAS officer and a former member secretary of the Rajasthan Backward Classes Commission was made its patron.
Singh, who has Congress connections, said Raje was wrong in saying the Jats of Bharatpur and Dholpur had been denied reservation as the community was included on the OBC list ahead of the 2000 panchayat elections. Raje, who belongs to the Scindia family and is a Rajput, was married to the Jat ruler of the former princely state of Dholpur.