Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is passing through one of the worst
periods of his political career. The Bharatpur violence and the
disappearance of a woman named Bhanwari Devi, allegedly involving
one of his cabinet colleagues, have turned controversial for him.
The Congress leadership has taken both the issues very seriously
and asked Gehlot to submit reports.
Though Gehlot did present his report and even ordered Central
Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiries on both the issues, the
party leadership did not accept the chief minister's explanation.
It sent a fact finding team to Bharatpur and even started to
investigate the Bhanwari Devi issue.
The central leadership does not want to anger Jats and Muslims
just before the Uttar Pradesh elections as both these communities
hold dominant positions in a number of constituencies in Uttar
Pradesh, parts of which border Rajasthan.
"The Congress would not like to take any chances before the
assembly elections next year and, in order to prove that the party
takes care of these communities, would certainly take steps in
this direction. Even if it means taking action against someone,
including Gehlot," said Satyendra Sharma, a keen watcher of
Gopalgarh in Bharatpur was the epicentre of the violence that
erupted on Sep 14 when members of the Meo Muslim and Gujjar
communities clashed with each other over the ownership of public
land. At least eight people were killed and 20 injured in the
To make things worse for the chief minister, state Congress
president Chandrabhan has started blaming the administration for
the deaths in Bharatpur.
"There were police and administrative lapses in Bharatpur. Had the
administration remained vigilant, violence would not have
occurred," Chandrabhan said.
Leaders of the Meo community, to which all the Bharatpur victims
belonged, have claimed that the maximum casualties were in firing
by police and not by violence by the Gujjar community. However,
the state government has denied this, with chief secretary
Salauddin Ahmed saying none of the eight killed was a victim of
In the Bhanwari Devi case too, the chief minister has been
criticized for the way he handled it.
Rajasthan's Minister of Public Health and Water Resources Mahipal
Maderana, the son of prominent Jat leader Parasram Maderna, has
landed in trouble due to the disappearance Sep 1 of the auxiliary
nurse and midwife from Bilara area in Jodhpur district.
Bhanwari Devi is alleged to have been featured in a CD, which also
shows the minister in a compromising position.
"The chief minister took time to hand over the case to the CBI. So
far police have done nothing and the CBI has not yet started to
investigate the case. It seems Gehlot was under pressure to not to
touch this issue as a prominent Jat community leader's son who is
a cabinet minister is thought to be behind the case," said a party
functionary on condition of anonymity.
"He (Gehlot) would not like to be seen as anti-Jat, a community
that is considered to be a big Congress voter, so it seems that he
took time to decide on the matter, which in a way has hurt the
party's image in the state," he added.
Jats are a dominating force in at least 40-50 of the 200 assembly
constituencies of Rajasthan.
"Now what action the party leadership takes and how many heads
roll over the issues is to be seen," said Sharma.