In a setback to the ruling Congress in Rajasthan ahead of this year’s Assembly election, former Union Minister and a prominent Jat leader of the Shekhawati region, Subhash Maharia, rejoined the BJP here on Friday.
Mr. Maharia had won thrice from the Sikar Lok Sabha constituency— in 1998, 1999 and 2004— and had joined the Congress in 2016.
Mr. Maharia, 65, who joined the BJP at the party’s State headquarters in the presence of senior leaders Arun Singh, C.P. Joshi and Rajendra Rathore, said the ongoing tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot had led to “unprecedented corruption” in the State government.
“The Congress government has utterly failed on all fronts. The people have made up their mind to bring the BJP back to power,” he said.
Mr. Maharia had served as the Union Minister of State for Rural Development in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1999 to 2004. After he faced defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the BJP did not give him a ticket in 2014.
In the 2019 general election, he contested from Sikar as a Congress candidate and lost to BJP’s Sumedhan and Saraswati.
While affirming that he was happy to have returned to the BJP’s fold, Mr. Maharia said the Congress government had failed to fulfil its promises, while the future of thousands of youth had been destroyed by the question paper leaks in the government recruitment examination.
He said his decision to rejoin the BJP, backed by his supporters, would help increase the party’s votes in the Shekhawati region by at least 20%.
In his resignation letter sent to Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, Mr. Maharia said the ruling party had ignored the grassroots workers who had made an immense contribution to bringing the party to power.
He said the Congress had not carried out full waiver of farmers’ loans and failed to provide employment to the youth. The party had also not analysed the factors responsible for its defeat in all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the State in 2019, he added.
Sikar-based political analyst Ashfaq Kayamkhani said Mr. Maharia was unhappy with the way he was being treated in the Congress despite ensuring the BJP’s defeat in all the eight Assembly seats in Sikar district in 2018.
“He was not getting the respect in Congress which he deserved. A leader of his stature should have been treated with dignity and given an important position,” Mr. Kayamkhani said.
BJP’s Rajasthan in-charge Mr. Singh said at the function that the people were fed up with the State government because of the leaders fighting with each other amid rampant corruption and deteriorating law and order situation.
There were speculations that the BJP may field Mr. Maharia against Pradesh Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra from his Lachhmangarh Assembly seat in Sikar district.
In the 2018 Assembly election, the Congress candidates had won in Danta Ramgarh, Dhod, Fatehpur, Lachhmangarh, Neem Ka Thana, Sikar and Srimadhopur Assembly constituencies in Sikar district.
Former Union Minister Mahado Singh Khandela, who contested as an independent candidate, won the Khandela seat. He is at present the chairperson of the State Farmers’ Commission.
Along with Mr. Maharia, retired IAS officer Prithvi Raj Meena, retired IPS officers Gopal Meena and Ramdev Singh Khairwa and former Rashtriya Loktantrik Party leader Narsee Kirad, who unsuccessfully contested the 2018 Assembly election from Alwar district’s Kathumar seat, also joined the BJP at the function.
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