New Delhi: Uncertain of the party’s performance at the Centre and sensing better prospects in state politics, two sitting members of Parliament and at least half a dozen former Congress MPs have opted to contest Assembly polls in Rajasthan.
Congress’s first list of 151 candidates released earlier this week mentions former union ministers and top leaders who have decided to return to state politics.
Of the two sitting MPs, Harish Meena had defected from the BJP just a few days ago.
The other MP, Raghu Sharma, a career Congressman, had won the Ajmer bypolls by a huge margin, wresting the seat from the BJP. He has been fielded from Kekri constituency, which falls under his parliamentary constituency.
Sharma, who also serves as the election campaign committee chairman in the state, dismissed the idea that the Congress has decided to field central and senior leadership in Rajasthan over fears of 2019 fate.
“That is just BJP propaganda. The assembly elections come first. When BJP itself is saying that this is a semi-final to 2019, then they should gear up to fight. We have strong candidates for the finals as well. It is not that we are not taking Lok Sabha elections seriously. Our real target is Lok Sabha in 2019,” says Sharma.
Interestingly, the party’s CM aspirant Sachin Pilot had lost from Ajmer in 2014 general elections, but chose not to contest the bypolls and has instead been fielded from Tonk.
Apart from Pilot, other former Union ministers to have thrown their hat in the Rajasthan ring are CP Joshi, Ashok Gehlot and Girija Vyas.
“A big reason is that the Congress leaders sense a victory in the state, but remain doubtful about its prospects at the Centre. The candidates, too, want to take advantage of the popular sentiment in Rajasthan and become ministers,” says former journalist Narayan Bareth.
CP Joshi, who has been given a ticket from Nathdwara, however, disagrees. “Just after Parliament elections, the BJP fielded MPs in state elections as well. The Congress has put its best foot forward keeping in mind the importance of Rajasthan,” he says.
Other former MPs who have decided to contest assembly elections include Narendra Budaniya, Lal Chand Kataria, Khiladi Lal Bairwa and Harish Chaudhary.
Lal Chand Kataria was reportedly told to contest next year’s Lok Sabha elections from Jaipur rural, but insisted on fighting Assembly elections instead.