He is the husband of the mayor of Jaipur and among the 44 accused in the main FIR registered in connection with the Karauli communal violence of April 2. But former Karauli Municipal Council chairperson Rajaram Gurjar and his wife Somya, both of whom are BJP leaders, are no strangers to controversies.
Last year, Rajaram’s name cropped up in connection with alleged kickbacks related to the clearing of bills by Jaipur Municipal Corporation (Greater) that is headed by Somya. In June, a person believed to be Rajaram was filmed demanding a Rs 20-crore commission from a representative of garbage collection company BVG to clear the firm’s outstanding bills worth Rs 276 crore. In the video, which went viral, RSS kshetriya pracharak (regional official) Nimbaram was also purportedly seen. In a corruption case filed subsequently, Nimbaram was also named as an accused.
Sources said such political connections had propelled the rise of Rajaram’s family in politics. They pointed out that despite being on the lam, he continues to remain in the BJP. The saffron party leader’s clout is apparent as not only his wife but also his 76-year-old mother Rampati is a public representative. She was elected the pradhan of Karauli’s Masalpur panchayat samiti late last year after winning on a BJP ticket.
After the “bribery” video came to light, the Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested Rajaram and BVG representative Omkar Sapre.
Earlier that month, Somya, who was a few months into her tenure, was suspended as the mayor of JMC Greater after three councillors allegedly assaulted the civic body’s commissioner Yagya Mitra Singhdeo in her presence. At the time, Singhdeo and the mayor were involved in a dispute over alternative arrangements for garbage collection as BVG was on strike. Somya remained suspended for almost seven months but took back charge on February 2 after the Supreme Court stayed her suspension order.
The mayor, who was also once a member of the Karauli municipality, made a transgression that made the news in 2016. At the time, she was a member of the Rajasthan State Commission for Women but had to resign for clicking a selfie with a rape victim. Along with the state panel’s then chairperson Suman Sharma, who was also in the selfie, Somya was reprimanded by the National Commission for Women for a “very insensitive” act.
Like his wife, Rajaram too was suspended from the civic body he was part of. In late 2019, he allegedly assaulted Karauli health official Mukesh Kumar for refusing to sign the salary bills of 340 sweepers instead of the 190 under contract. Rajaram was arrested on March 1 after the High Court set aside his anticipatory bail.
While the couple did not respond to calls and text messages, Rajaram is reported to have told journalists in Karauli that he is being targeted out of “political malice”. He has also claimed that on the day of the violence he was helping transport the injured to hospitals.
Director General of Police (DGP) ML Lather on Friday said the investigation into the communal violence was going on and “his (Rajaram) role is being investigated”. He added that the police had registered 10 FIRs and arrested 23 of the accused identified in the main FIR. The primary FIR has been registered by the Karauli Kotwali Station House Officer for, among other things, attempted murder, rioting, criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between groups, and outraging religious feelings.
“Other than these well-known cases, there are some cases of land fraud against him as well,” said Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi. “BJP should answer why, despite Rajaram being named in so many cases, the party continues to reward him, let alone take an action against him.”
In response, BJP MLA and party spokesperson Ramlal Sharma said that on April 2 Rajaram was “simply participating in the yatra (which allegedly triggered the violence) like hundreds of others”.
“If there is any evidence against him indulging in vandalism, or arson, or provoking people, then the police should act against him,” Sharma said, before quipping sarcastically, “But if they are taking action only because he is a BJP worker and participated in the rally, then they should go ahead.”
Meanwhile, the Rajasthan Home Department on Friday issued orders to ensure peace and harmony at yatras like the one that triggered the violence in Karauli.