Buoyed by the mandate for the grand alliance in Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) is hoping to make inroads in Rajasthan, with prohibition as the main plank for now.
JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP K C Tyagi, who was in Jaipur on Saturday, chaired a meeting with various organisations and people under the umbrella of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which is demanding a ban on liquor in the state.
The demand has grown louder since November 3 last year, when the Morcha’s regional convener, Gurusharan Chhabra, an MLA with Janata Party from 1977-80, died 33 days into his hunger strike while calling for prohibition as well as an empowered Lokayukta in the state.
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About Saturday’s meeting, Tyagi told The Indian Express, “It was a meeting with some civil society organisations in the state who are are working to implement prohibition. Since Bihar has banned liquor, and it was in our manifesto too, they want Nitish-ji (Chief Minister Nitish Kumar) to come here and share his experience,” About political muscle-flexing by the JD(U), Tyagi said many people in Rajasthan are dissatisfied with the Congress but cannot join or support the BJP, and vice versa. “So there is scope for a third front here,” he said. “There was a time when the Janata Party, (and later) the Janata Dal, were very strong in Rajasthan. That ideology was very strong here in the 1970s. Now we want a third front here with JD(U) as the backbone.”
Gurusharan Chhabra’s daughter-in-law Pooja, who, too, is running a campaign to bring in prohibition in Rajasthan, had met Nitish in Delhi on May 8 and extended an invitation to share his experiences with activists in Rajasthan. Pooja said the Bihar CM had accepted the invitation and promised to extend “non-political support” to the campaign. “He said it was purely a campaign and that he would like to extend non-political support,” she said.
After the former MLA’s death, Pooja had sat on a hunger strike on November 23 last year outside Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s residence, but called it off on November 30 following an “assurance” by the CM. However, Chhabra has since claimed that the government and Raje have backtracked on the promise – senior cabinet minister Rajendra Rathore had declined to impose a ban on liquor, terming it “impossible” and reasoning that it would mean a “loss of Rs 6,000 crore revenue” and rise of “liquor mafia.”
Since January, Pooja Chhabra has been holding rallies, supported by the former MLA’s associates, mainly around Jaipur to convert it into a public movement and mobilise enough people to mount pressure on the government.
On Saturday, Gurusharan Chhabra’s other son, Ankur, and his wife Poonam, participated in the meeting with JD(U)’s Tyagi. “It was a preparatory committee meeting with 37 people from across the state. We want Nitish Kumar to share with us the economic as well as other aspects of the liquor ban in Bihar,” said Lok Sangharsh Morcha’s Rajendra Saiwal, who conducted the meeting.