With 4 Meena Candidates in Congress List, Community Asserts Its Clout in Rajasthan’s Politics
Once rulers, the Meena community has traditionally supported the Congress in the state. According to a former journalist, several Meena leaders were involved in India’s freedom struggle and they aligned with Jawaharlal Nehru early on.
File photo of BJP leader Kirodi Lal Meena who is locked in a tug-of-war with Om Prakash Hudla.
New Delhi: Unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress has announced all its candidates for the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan.
During elections, social demographics and caste equations run deep in the desert state. With Rajputs, Jats and Gujjars having a considerable presence and influence in the state, each community looks for its share in the pie.
The state also has a sizable tribal population, about 14%, with the Meena community being considered the most influential. The fact is reflected in the Congress’ candidate list for the upcoming Lok Sabha election as well. Four Meena leaders are in the poll fray on Congress tickets.
The grand old party has fielded Savita Meena and Raghuveer Singh Meena from the reserved seats of Dausa and Udaipur, respectively. The party has also named ST candidates Ram Narain Meena and Namo Narain Meena from the general seats of Kota and Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, respectively.
Ram Narain Meena, who has entered the electoral battle as an Assembly candidate seven times and thrice as a Lok Sabha contender, said the Congress had always worked for the empowerment of his community.
“I am the only one (from the ST community) from across the country to have repeatedly received a ticket from a general seat. No other party in India has given an ST candidate this kind of an opportunity,” he said.
The Meena community has traditionally supported the Congress in the state. According to former BBC journalist and political analyst Narayan Bareth, several Meena leaders were involved in India’s freedom struggle and they aligned with Jawaharlal Nehru early on.
“After independence, when the state of Rajasthan was formed under the Government of India, Meenas got reservation and naturally stayed with the Congress,” Bareth said.
Captain Chuttan Lal, a prominent Meena leader, played a crucial role in getting the reserved status for the community. He went on to become a Member of Parliament for Congress from Sawai-Madhopur.
And while Meenas enjoy a good relationship with the grand old party, the last five years of BJP has not exactly helped their cause.
According to Bareth, a large section of the Meena community felt sidelined under the BJP rule.
Reservation and representation in administrative services have aided the community’s upward social mobility, but under the saffron party, that has somewhat halted.
“When the BJP came to power, Meena’s representation in services decreased. There was a time when there were 12 direct IAS officers in Rajasthan from the Meena community, now only four are left. Be it in services or education, our numbers have dwindled,” Ram Narain said.
According to him, the Congress understood the situation and has hence, tried to bring the community forward.
“It isn’t the case that Meenas automatically support the Congress. Prominent community leaders like Ram Kishore Meena, who was a cabinet minister, and Nand Lal Meena are among others, are in the BJP. But the Congress has brought the community together,” the leader said.
According to Bareth, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) had worked in the community and there was a period when a section of Meenas had gravitated towards the BJP.
Kirodi Lal Meena, an RSS product and popular BJP leader from the community, quit the saffron party in 2008 over differences with former chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
“A section of Meenas, who had moved toward BJP, were displeased that Kirodi Lal was isolated by the party. He left the BJP and that further pushed the community towards the Congress. Even though he rejoined the BJP in 2018, he can’t mobilise the community and divert Meena voters toward the saffron party now. His grip has weakened,” Bareth said.
Meenas also owe their social ascension to another factor, Bareth said. “They are mostly settled around Jaipur and Kota divisions and have a considerable influence in Sawai-Madhopur, Dausa, Bharatpur, Karauli, and Dholpur. Being in the vicinity of the state capital further benefited them. Meenas got more opportunities compared to other tribes in the southern belt of the Rajasthan. Bhil Meenas, Garasia and Gameti tribes did not come up as much and they still don’t have a direct IAS or IPS from their communities,” Bareth said.
Meenas were once rulers of Rajasthan. The tribe established the Matsya kingdom with Amer city as the capital. They later lost their kingdom to Kachwaha Rajputs and settled around Amer, which now comes under Jaipur Municipal Corporation.
Hence, the Tonk-Sawai Madhopur seat, which is near Jaipur, has repeatedly elected Meena leaders, despite it being a general seat.
Congress Lok Sabha candidate Namo Narain Meena, a former IPS officer, has been elected to Parliament twice from the seat and even served as a minister of state in the Union Cabinet.
Raghuveer Singh Meena, Congress candidate from Udaipur and Pradesh Congress Committee vice-president said his party understood the ‘feelings’ of the community.
“In addition to the reserved seats, the Congress gave two extra tickets to us. For that, our community is grateful and I’m confident it will support the party completely in the upcoming election,” he said.
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