The district of Rajsamand in southern Rajasthan is one of the places where the BJP has been affected by internal dissent after the party preferred to nominate sitting Rajsamand MLA Deepti Maheshwari over a local, providing the Congress with an opportunity the rift in the party for its benefit.
Local leaders such as Dinesh Badala, Ganesh Paliwal, and Mahendra Kothari were among those expecting to be fielded by the BJP. All three filed nominations as Independents but later withdrew to throw their weight behind Badala to prevent a split of votes. Though Badala was expelled from the BJP for six months after he filed his nomination, he still enjoys the backing of a sizeable number of party workers. According to district BJP insiders, around 350 party workers have submitted their resignations in protest against Maheshwari’s candidature.
A section of BJP workers have also questioned the party leadership on their silence on “dynastic politics” in the district. Maheshwari is the daughter of former Rajasthan minister and three-time MLA Kiran Maheshwar who died in 2021. The local party workers opposing the candidature of the MLA have adopted the slogan, “Wanshwaad pe chot karenge (We will strike against dynastic politics)”.
“(Narendra) Modi ji repeatedly has said that he will destroy dynastic politics. If this (Deepti’s candidature) is not dynastic politics, what is? Why blame the Congress when it is happening in your party,” Badala told The Indian Express.
District BJP president Mann Singh Barhat said he was confident of a BJP victory but admitted that the discontent within the party would affect the party’s victory margin. “Yes, this will cut into BJP’s vote share. The margin will decrease, though I am sure of BJP’s win, the infighting will lead to a decline in votes,” he said, quickly adding that the party’s Lok Sabha chances would not be affected.
The discontent among leaders has been exacerbated by the fact that no local has represented the constituency, which the BJP has been winning since 2003. “Rajsamand’s people have been loyal to the BJP and have been voting for them since 2003, but what has the party done for them? Bahaari logo ko thop dete hai hum par, janta bholi hai isliye (They parachute outsiders into the constituency as the people are naive),” Paliwal said.
Maheshwari became a legislator in 2021 following a victory in a bypoll necessitated by her mother’s death. But facing criticism for allegedly being unavailable and doing little for Rajsamand, the MLA’s detractors in the district unit did not expect her to be renominated. “We thought she understands her mother’s aspirations for the district better and hence wanted Deepti to complete the remaining two-and-a-half years of her mother’s term,” Paliwal said.
The discontent was evident in videos that recently did the rounds on social media. Purported BJP workers were seen damaging furniture at the Rajsamand party office last month. Following this, the state BJP disciplinary committee revoked the primary membership of four workers.
Responding to the allegations of dynasty politics, Maheshwari said the definition of dynastic politics was different for her and party workers. “I was never active in politics when she (my mother) was around and was chosen as the candidate only after her death due to the love she had garnered. I just accepted the people’s wish. It is the same love that has resulted in my nomination for the second time,” she told The Indian Express.
The MLA, who is a graduate of Symbiosis, Pune and ran her own company before taking the political plunge, added, “I am an MLA and am continuously hopping places. I have raised my voice 54 times in the Assembly. Wherever I am, I am trying to find ways to improve the constituency.”
A senior district BJP leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said the infighting would dent the party’s image. “It is like two members of the same family are fighting in public. Floating voters, who are yet to decide whom to vote for, will see that the party is not putting up a united front and might vote against us,” he said.
The BJP functionary said elevating “outsiders” could affect the morale of the workers as well as lead to dilution of local leadership. “Outsiders often pursue their own interests and view established local leaders as rivals, leading to a decline in the morale of party workers. This sense of limited opportunity discourages the new cadre, who observe a lack of prospects in dedicating efforts to the party. This jeopardises the ‘party with a difference’ culture that the BJP has cultivated,” he added.
While Maheshwari has been labelled an “outsider”, party leaders claimed both her mother and current Rajsamand MP Diya Kumari who is contesting the Assembly polls from Vidhyadhar Nagar received overwhelming support from party workers despite bearing “outsiders”. Kiran, the party insiders said, was well-versed with local issues.
But this infighting in the BJP has provided the Congress with an opportunity to exploit the rift to its advantage and attempt to wrest back the constituency. “The Independent candidate (Badala) and his close aides have been working in the constituency for the past 25-30 years. The BJP’s votes will definitely be split,” said Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee member Asha Paliwal.
Narayan Singh Bhati, the Congress candidate for Rajsamand, said he was confident about a victory. “It (BJP infighting) does not matter to us. My focus is more on the ground. We do not rely on them for victory. We believe in hard work and the government’s policies. Infighting or not (in the BJP), we will win,” he said.