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Reshuffle reflects renewed focus of Congress to retain SC/ST support base in eastern Rajasthan

Among the new faces, eight out of the 15 newly-appointed ministers come from four districts — Bharatpur, Alwar, Dausa and Karauli — all situated in eastern Rajasthan.

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Jaipur |
November 24, 2021 6:55:29 am
Among the newly-inducted members as well those who were elevated to cabinet rank, three ministers — Vishvendra Singh, Bhajan Lal Jatav and Zahida — are from Bharatpur district. (PTI)

The recent cabinet reshuffle in Rajasthan reflects the renewed focus of the Congress party towards eastern Rajasthan, a region where it had performed spectacularly well during the 2018 Assembly elections.

Among the new faces, eight out of the 15 newly-appointed ministers come from four districts — Bharatpur, Alwar, Dausa and Karauli — all situated in eastern Rajasthan.

Among the newly-inducted members as well those who were elevated to cabinet rank, three ministers — Vishvendra Singh, Bhajan Lal Jatav and Zahida — are from Bharatpur district while two ministers — Mamta Bhupesh and Murari Lal Meena — are from Dausa district.

Similarly, both Tika Ram Jully and Shakuntala Rawat are from Alwar district while Ramesh Meena is from Karauli district.

In this list, Jully, Jatav and Bhupesh, who were earlier ministers of states, have now been promoted to cabinet rank. Five of the eight are from the SC/ST communities, in tandem with the fact that eastern Rajasthan has a large population of Dalits and tribals.

“One of the main reasons which propelled us to power in 2018 was the fact that we did exceptionally well in eastern Rajasthan, where the BJP’s performance was dismal. The SC-ST population had voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Congress. By getting more representation from the region in the cabinet, the party is hoping to ensure that we hold on to this vote bank,” said a senior Congress MLA on condition of anonymity.

In the 2018 Assembly elections, the BJP had won only 20 of the 59 seats reserved for candidates from the SC-ST communities in the state. Contrary to this, back in 2013, when the saffron party had won 163 seats in the Assembly, it had emerged victorious in 50 of these Assembly constituencies.

In Bharatpur, Karauli, Dausa and Alwar, the Congress had won majority of seats in 2018, decimating the BJP in eastern Rajasthan.

Of the total 27 Assembly seats in these four districts, the BJP could win in only two constituencies, with the Congress trumping it in majority of the seats.

The factors which are attributed to this spectacular success of the Congress include the fact that districts such as Dausa are known to be strongholds of Congress leader Sachin Pilot.

The anger among the SC-ST communities against the BJP before the 2018 Assembly elections also stemmed from police actions and arrests made under the watch of the then Vasundhara Raje-led state government at the aftermath of violence during and after a bharat bandh on April 2, 2018, which was called in protest against the Supreme Court order on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A day after the bandh, several atrocities against Dalits took place as part of an upper caste reprisal with incidents such as the torching of the houses of the then incumbent and former MLAs of Hindaun in Karauli district had led to widespread discontent among the SC-ST population.

“SC-ST communities are our traditional voters but we shouldn’t take them for granted. We have seen how our tally goes down when they don’t vote for us. The party leadership is hoping that by having greater representation from eastern Rajasthan in the council of ministers, we will manage to retain this voter base,” said the Congress MLA.

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