Congress suffers setback as former minister joins BJP

JAIPUR: Congress suffered a setback in poll-bound when former cabinet minister switched over to BJP, even as the opposition party’s central leaders reached Jaipur to contain rebellion in its ranks over distribution of tickets, on Tuesday.

Diwan, who is a Rajput but is revered as the “dharm-guru” or religious leader of a sect comprising OBC communities—primarily Sirvi and Kalbi in Marwar region—joined the saffron party a day after filing of nominations for the assembly elections on December 7 got over.

The approximately 600-year-old sect that Diwan leads has more than 700 temples of goddess “Aai Mata” (incarnation of Durga) and over 15 lakh followers across India. Diwan is 19th dharm-guru of this sect, which has several temples even in Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Coimbatore. Union minister of state for law, justice and corporate affairs, P P Chaudhary, is a Sirvi and represents the state’s Pali seat.

Diwan, who has been a legislator for five terms between 1977 and 2003 from Sojat in Pali, was upset over being denied Congress ticket from Sumerpur in the same district. Sojat assembly seat got reserved for SC communities after the delimitation of constituencies in 2008, so Diwan wanted to shift to Sumerpur.

Ex-cabinet minister Bina Kak too was seeking Congress ticket from Sumerpur but faced denial. The opposition party has nominated Ranju Ramawat, a former NSUI president, against BJP’s Joraram Kumawat from Sumerpur.

Diwan joined BJP in the presence of union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is party’s election in-charge in Rajasthan, and chief minister here. He would be campaigning for BJP in Pali district that has six assembly seats. BJP had won all six of them in 2013. Diwan’s sect followers include the Meghwal community in Barmer, which has seven seats. BJP hopes to benefit from his influence among both Rajputs and his sect followers in western Rajasthan.

The Congress, on the other hand, sent its senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rajiv Shukla and Mukul Wasnik to help the state organisation pacify the rebels. The party has assigned the state’s seven divisions to its senior leaders for reaching out to its disgruntled Congressmen, many of whom have filed nominations as independent candidates.

More than 40 Congress rebels have filed nominations, while more than 15 have moved to other parties. A day earlier, former MP and Kota ex-royal Ijyaraj Singh, whose wife Kalpana Raje has been nominated on BJP ticket from Ladpura in the district, too crossed over from Congress to BJP.

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