Former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) has made a wild card entry in Rajasthan, threatening to shake up the largely bipolar polity of the desert state.
The party has put up an impressive list of 150 candidates of the 200 assembly seats — mostly BJP and Congress rebels. And its face is Kirodi Lal Meena, an influential leader of the tribal ‘Meena’ community and a minister in the previous BJP government.
Rajasthan’s pollscape has largely been dominated by the Congress and BJP, but in 2008, Mayawati’s BSP won six seats. All later supported the Ashok Gehlot government.
For now, the NPP is a talking point, largely on account of its possible nuisance value. Its candidates are likely to cut into the votes of both the BJP and the Congress — influencing the outcome in approximately 35 constituencies.
“We will be the kingmakers. The next government cannot be formed without NPP support,” said Kirodi Lal Meena, who has also broad-based his approach by fielding several non-Meena candidates.
A chunk heavyweight BJP rebels has already joined, which includes former assembly speaker and eight-time MLA Sumitra Singh, sitting legislators Babulal Verma and Gyasa Ram Koli, former state ministers Shailendra Joshi and Narendra Kanwar.
The Congress believes the NPP is nothing but a front for the BJP and Kirodi Lal Meena, who has links with RSS, would not hesitate to extend support to the saffron party should it fall short of majority.
But with his hostilities with BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje being well known, observers say he might side with the Congress also.
Kirodi Lal Meena’s wife Golma Devi has been a minister in the Ashok Gehlot government.