Days after he was made a minister in the Ashok Gehlot government in November 2021, Rajendrasingh Gudha addressed a rally in his Assembly constituency of Udaipurwati in Jhunjhunu. An elated Gudha, his left arm flailing in excitement, said, “I win elections from the BSP, become a minister in a Congress government, and when it’s time for Congress to pick up the carpet, then I leave the Congress.”
Gudha has done this twice already. Back in 2009, after he won from Udaipurwati on a BSP ticket in 2008, Gudha and all five other BSP MLAs merged into the Congress, and Gudha was made a Minister of State for Tourism by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. In 2013, he lost Udaipurwati on a Congress ticket, but won it back on a BSP ticket in 2018. Once again, all six BSP MLAs merged into the Congress in 2019, and Gudha was again made an MoS by Gehlot in 2021.
He may not have left the Congress, but Gudha is now openly opposed to his benefactor, Gehlot, assuming a change of wind in favour of Sachin Pilot.
Like most politicians, Gudha, 54, is adept at adapting. And so, by the first half of 2022, when it began to appear to him that the Congress was going to back Pilot in the future, he shifted camps.
Never far from the headlines, Gudha was booked for abduction last week, for which he promptly pointed fingers at Gehlot, saying, “If a case is lodged against a minister, it can’t be without the CM’s knowledge, as the Home (department) is also with him. He could have asked me what it was about before the case was filed.”
This is the third such criminal case against Gudha. In 2016, following a road accident in which a man died, Gudha allegedly assaulted cops and damaged public property. He was arrested and booked under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), and others, besides the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act. There is another case against him, lodged under IPC sections 353 and 332 (voluntarily causing hurt to a public servant).
Last November, Gudha had proclaimed, “I have a licence for jail. I renew it every five years. This time, it hasn’t happened yet.”
A two-term MLA, his surname ‘Gudha’ comes from his ancestral village in the Udaipurwati tehsil of Jhunjhunu. He identifies “MLA pension” as his source of income, while his wife Nisha Kanwar runs a dairy. They have two children — a son and a daughter. As per his 2018 affidavit, he and his wife own property worth approximately Rs 95 lakh.
Bhanwar Singh Bhati, also an MoS in the Gehlot government, is married to Gudha’s sister Rajesh Kanwar. Before delimitation, Gudha’s brother Ranveer Singh was elected to the Assembly on a Lok Jan Shakti Party ticket from Gudha in 2003.
Before he openly aligned with Pilot, Gudha was known for constantly arm-twisting the Gehlot government. Upset over his former “BSP junior” Ramesh Meena being made a Cabinet minister while he himself was an MoS in 2021, Gudha had sulked for about three weeks before taking charge.
The Congress continues to put up with his tantrums because every MLA’s vote counts in the shifting sands of Rajasthan politics, something not lost on Gudha. In November last year, he said, “I don’t ask for votes in the name of a flower or a hand, but for my face.”
In his first major comment against Gehlot, made in June 2022, Gudha had said, “Gehlot saheb bolte bahut hain ki ye kiya. Bolte toh hain hi, media mein bolte hain. Kabhi baith ke chinta karte toh zyada theek hota (Gehlot talks a lot that he has done this, that. And a lot of it is to the media. It would have been better if he sat down more and thought over stuff).”
The comment came ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, when the Congress had sequestered its MLAs in an Udaipur resort. He was among six party MLAs who were sulking and gave the resort a miss, until Gehlot met them personally and flew with them to Udaipur.
But following the events of September 25, 2022 — when most Congress MLAs had skipped the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and submitted their resignations to Speaker C P Joshi — his change in ‘loyalty’ was out in the open. Back then he had said when it became clear that Gehlot was going to Delhi (as party president), “We decided that for Rajasthan, there is no candidate better Sachin Pilot. If Pilot is made the CM today, we will repeat the government in Rajasthan 100 per cent.”
“There is a craze for Sachin Pilot among the youth. The previous government was formed due to Pilot… If there are one-to-one talks with MLAs, 90 per cent will take his name,” he had then said.
He followed it up in November 2022, when he alleged centralisation of power under Gehlot, saying that people have to approach the CM’s Office even to get transfers of constables cleared. That same month, following Gehlot’s “gaddar (traitor)” barb at Pilot, Gudha accused Gehlot of gaddari, alleging he was not following the high command’s diktat.
In December, he took on Gehlot again, this time on the emerging government recruitment exam paper leak scam, saying, “We’re unable (to hold examinations securely). We are failing.”
By January 2023, the former BSP MLA was firmly ensconced in Pilot’s inner circle. If there was any doubt about his loyalty, it was removed when Pilot addressed one of his five back-to-back farmer rallies on January 18 in Gudha’s constituency, Udaipurwati.