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Rebel dents BJP in Bikaner, Shekhawati region

Rakesh Hari Pathak in Bikaner | November 26, 2003 15:25 IST

Expelled Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devi Singh Bhati, who has converted his outfit Samajik Nyaya Manch (social justice forum) into a political outfit, could spoil the prospects of the saffron party candidates in Bikaner and Shekhawati region.

Bhati, a Rajput, who is contesting from Kolayat, a seat he won in 1998 on BJP ticket, may find it difficult to retain his place in the assembly but may make situation favourable for the ruling Congress in at least 15 assembly seats.

In a district of about 1.1 million voters, Rajputs have a significant presence and in absence of any known leader on its side belonging to the community, BJP could suffer a setback as Bhati is working against it.

The SNM's presence in the polls could hurt BJP in about 15 of the 22 assembly seats in the region comprising Bikaner, Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Churu districts.

However infighting in Congress, as is evident from  sitting MP Rameshwar Lal Dudi working against his own party candidate and MLA Rewat Ram Panwar in Nokha gives some cheer to BJP.

Panwar's campaigner and office coordinator Hanuman Prasad told PTI that the MP was openly opposing the party candidate for 'personal reasons'.

"There is no question of patch up with BJP," Manch secretary Akhtar Hussain said.

On Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's announcement that a decision would be taken after the polls on providing reservation to upper castes on economic basis, the issue on which Bhati revolted, Hussain said, "We are not satisfied with PM's attitude. If they had decided something before the elections we could have talked."

Campaigners of Manch, which has not fielded a single Jat, however, feel that support of about 36 castes would give the new organisation a significant presence in a coalition government as the elections were heading for a hung assembly.

A prominent Congress rebel Gopal Joshi who jumped into the fray on Manch's ticket is posing a big threat to sitting BJP MLA Manik Chand Surana in Lunkaransar, although he is considered to be on a strong wicket.

However the BJP has made inroads in Nokha and Dungargarh where Congress rebel Malaram has virtually finished the ruling party's chances

Bereft of any party wave the electorate are generally evaluating the performance of sitting MLAs many of whom, they feel, were facing corruption charges.

A cross-section of voters, including some of BJP supporters, admit that government had done rather well in managing drought relief works. However, they wonder if it will be enough for the ruling party to sail through.

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