A shaken BJP leadership asked Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to act fast to douse the anger of the Gujjar community as well as take steps to restore order in the state that saw sudden eruption of violence and police firing.
BJP president Rajnath Singh, who is away in Goa for the assembly poll campaign, spoke to Raje twice on Tuesday to urge to open dialogue with the Gujjar leaders who have accused her of going back on a 'promise' to declare the community as Scheduled Tribes (ST).
Senior BJP leaders said the state government should have been more adequately prepared as the Gurjar Sangarsh Samiti had earlier given a call to block all highways leading to Jaipur.
Though the police imposed prohibitory orders in six districts and tightened security, it was not enough to stem the violence. One of the groups, the Gurjar Mahasabha, had postponed its agitation till July 31 after a Cabinet sub-committee was formed in September to examine the quota issue and the inclusion of the Gurjars in the ST category.
BJP leaders urged Rajasthan ministers to stand united and avoid internal bickering even if they are upset with the chief minister who has just returned to the country after a visit to New York.
They said Raje and other BJP leaders should have known that this is not the first time that trouble has broken out over the Gurjar community's demand for ST status. In September last year, protesters had damaged railway tracks and property near Hindon railway station, disrupting services on the key Mumbai-Delhi section.
The BJP on Tuesday stood divided over the police firing on Gurjar protestors at Dausa. "It's not the question of which party is in power.... I strongly condemn the police firing there. There should be a high-level inquiry. Do you want me to use a stronger language than this?" BJP vice-president Sahib Singh Verma said.
His comments came barely minutes before spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad was about to give the BJP's official reaction, from the same podium, to the police firing in the party-ruled state. "The incident is unfortunate. It's sad. We express our condolences. We are not condoning it either. We appeal for calm," Prasad, who neither condemned the police firing nor demanded a probe into it, said.
Prasad praised Raje for her track-record as he sought to defend her against allegations that she had not kept her promise to designate Gurjars as STs.
Raje, who was in the capital to attend the NDC meeting, apprised Home Minister Shivraj Patil of the situation. She wanted over 2000 para-military force personnel to be sent to Jaipur.
Ever since the BJP wooed the Jats, the Gurjars in Rajasthan feel politically alienated. They are also worried about the fact that the Jats have forced their way into the OBC category.
They claim the Jats and Meenas also belonging to the same region and having more or less the same background have forged ahead and secured top positions in government jobs.
Since the Mandal Commission report became part of official policy in 1993, backwardness has become an appellation that various social groups in Rajasthan have been willing to fight for.
Before the last polls in 2003, Ashok Gehlot as Congress Chief minister of the state and himself a member of a notified backward community, paid the price in the last elections, with Jats mobilising state-wide to inflict a severe drubbing on the Congress.