New Delhi: Days after the Bharatiya Janata Party announced its first list of 16 candidates in Rajasthan for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is reportedly planning to counter it with a strategic alliance.
Chief Minister and Congress veteran Ashok Gehlot is believed to be in talks with prominent Jat leader Hanuman Beniwal in a bid to form an alliance with his Rashtriya Loktantrik Party. Beniwal, an MLA from Khinvsar in Nagaur, had floated the RLP as an alternative to both the national parties ahead of the Assembly elections in December.
Gehlot reportedly met Beniwal on two occasions and the grand old party is in discussions to allocate seats to the RLP. The outfit had won three seats in the state elections in December — Khinvsar, Merta and Bhopalgarh — largely due to Beniwal’s appeal among Jats in the region and his popularity as a farmer leader.
However, Beniwal said his meeting with Gehlot merely related to farmers’ issues.
The Congress appears to be mobilising the Jat community in Rajasthan with such an alliance. The party had earlier drummed up Rajput sentiments against the BJP last year. It is also trying to bring in independent MLAs into its fold ahead of the polls.
Raghu Sharma, Congress’s election campaign committee chairman in the state, said the party is willing to contest polls in alliance with other ideologically-similar outfits to defeat the BJP. “We will soon announce candidates and the only parameter will be their winnability,” he added.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi was in Rajasthan on Tuesday and addressed rallies in Sriganganagar and Kota districts. This was Gandhi’s third visit to the state since the Assembly elections last year. The party is expected to release its list of candidates soon.
In its first list for Rajasthan, the BJP had announced candidates for 16 of the 25 seats. The party has largely played it safe by nominating Union ministers and parliamentarians. It is yet to declare its nominees for Churu, Barmer, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur, Rajsamand, Nagaur, Dausa and Banswara seats.
In the 2014 elections, the BJP rode the Modi wave to sweep the desert state, winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats on offer. Rajasthan goes to polls in the fourth and fifth phase of the elections on April 29 and May 6.