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Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s acquittal in chinkara poaching cases, standoff between the Rajasthan government and erstwhile Jaipur royal family over a hotel dispute and death of hundreds of cows in a government-run shelter made news in the state in 2016. Exposing of a corruption racket involving IAS officer Neeraj K Pawan, rash driving by the son of an Independent MLA killing three persons, rape and murder of a Dalit girl also made headlines.
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On the political side, both ruling BJP and Opposition Congress were busy balancing equations in view of assembly elections due in 2018.
In a major blow to Gujjars and other communities getting benefits of five per cent reservation under Special Backward Class, the Rajasthan High court struck down the quota as it exceeded the permissible limit of 50 per cent.
After the development, Gujjar leaders led by Kirori Singh Bainsla asked the government to clear its stand on the issue while Gujarat’s Patel reservation leader Hardik Patel promised the community his support on the issue.
Patel chose Rajasthan’s Udaipur as his temporary stay for six months after the Gujarat High Court granted him bail in July and directed him to leave Gujarat within two days.
The Rajasthan High Court provided major relief to Salman acquitting him in two cases related to poaching of chinkaras in Jodhpur. He was convicted by the trial court and handed down sentences of one year and five years respectively.
The Vasundhara Raje government faced embarrassment for the deaths of several hundred cows in Hingonia gaushala in Jaipur, one of the biggest in the state. It issued a statement saying that most of the cows were sick, unwell and suffering from malnutrition but this not only invited sharp reaction from the Opposition and social organisations but also RSS which blamed it for showing apathy towards cows.
The year saw a rare protest by former Jaipur royal family led by ‘Rajmata’ Padmini Devi, wife of late Bhawani Singh, following the state government’s move to seal the entrance of hotel Rajmahal Palace, a property owned by the family.
The government defended its action initially but BJP’s senior leadership intervened and later the gates were reopened putting an end to the controversy.
Ruling BJP and Opposition Congress gained one seat each in the bypolls for panchayat and municipal elections amid the countrywide debate on demonetisation and its impact. Of the total 37 seats, BJP won 19 seats and Congress 14 while 4 seats were bagged by Independent candidates.
Raje inducted six new ministers including a Dalit woman, elevated two state ministers to cabinet rank and dropped two state ministers. The cabinet rejig was a balancing act on caste and regional lines with Jat, Dalit and tribal communities finding representation in the government.
Congress initiated dinner diplomacy to bring together all party leaders and resolve differences among them. The move was aimed at ensuring unity ahead of the assembly elections.
Senior BJP leader and former Rajya Sabha MP V P Singh was appointed Punjab Governor while Union minister Venkaiah Naidu, BJP Vice President Om Mathur, member of erstwhile Dungarpur royal family Harsh Vardhan and former RBI official Ramkumar Verma were elected to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.
BSP MLA B L Kushwaha lost his membership from the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly after he was convicted by a court in Dholpur in a murder case of 2012.
Jaipur got a new mayor Ashok Lahoti after Nirmal Nahta resigned on personal reasons.
Exposing a racket in medical and health department, ACB arrested a middleman, who with the help of some officers including IAS officer Pawan, RAS officer Anil Agrawal and others was allegedly running a multicrore racket of bribes and tender manipulation under NRHM.
Pawan, who was posted as the Commissioner of the agriculture department at the time of the arrest in May, was alleged to have received kickbacks worth crores through middleman Ajit Soni when he was the director of NRHM-IEC.
The ACB also arrested the chief fire officer of Jaipur Municipal Corporation Dinesh Verma in a case of graft.
In the education sector, curriculum re-structuring of Class VIII social science textbook of Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education schools triggered controversy after it came to light that references to Jawaharlal Nehru were omitted from the pages of history.
In the previous edition of the textbook, the chapter on national movement had Nehru prominently in a box titled ‘Major Leaders of National Movement’. Also, the chapter on ‘India After Independence’, in the earlier edition, began with the contribution of Nehru and Sardar Patel to government formation which were missing in the revised book.
In the revised chapter on ‘National Movement’, there was no mention of Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, Madan Mohan Malviya or other freedom fighters and the chapter on post-independence India was also silent on Nehru.
State Congress chief Sachin Pilot alleged it was a next level of saffronisation of education. However, School Education Minister Vasudev Devnani said Nehru’s name was still there in some pages in the book.
The rape and murder of a Dalit girl hailing from Barmer who was studying in Bikaner also led to much criticism of the government on the issue of women’s safety.
Member of Rajasthan State Commission for Women Somya Gurjar was in the news but for wrong reasons as she clicked a selfie with a rape victim, in which the Chairperson of the commission Suman Sharma was also seen. Gurjar submitted her resignation to Raje.
At least 10 legislators, including Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria created controversy for allegedly badmouthing, abusing, threatening or showing political arrogance to public servants, journalist or Congress leaders.
In a major catch, Rajasthan ATS arrested IS operative Jamil Ahemad in Sikar who was allegedly involved in collecting and transferring funds for the banned terror organisation from Dubai, where he was employed in a reputed firm.
Three employees of postal department were also arrested in border districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer for allegedly sharing Indian Army-related information with Pakistani spies.
Wildlife lovers’ delight Machli, the celebrated tigress and prominent attraction of Ranthambhore National Park, died in August.