Oldest MLA on Pilot’s side, Bhanwarlal Sharma, has made attempts to topple govt earlier too
In a recorded statement, Bhanwarlal Sharma, who is no stranger to playing kingmaker and toppling democratically elected governments in his home state Rajasthan, has spoken against CM Ashok Gehlot and has thrown his lot behind challenger Sachin Pilot.Updated: Jul 15, 2020 16:08 IST
Bhanwarlal Sharma (75), the oldest lawmaker in the Rajasthan assembly, has sided with rebel Congress leader and former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot amid the power tussle with CM Ashok Gehlot.
Currently, he is holed up at ITC Grand Bharat Hotel in Haryana that has emerged as a playground for political parleys.
In a recorded statement, Sharma, who is no stranger to playing kingmaker and toppling democratically elected governments in his home state Rajasthan, has spoken against CM Ashok Gehlot and has thrown his lot behind challenger Pilot.
Sharma, a seven-time member of Rajasthan legislative assembly (MLA), of which four times on a Congress ticket, is involved in two bids, including the current one against CM Gehlot, to topple democratically elected state governments.
Political commentators reminded the flip-flop of Sharma, a Congress MLA from Sardarshahar in Churu district, through his chequered political career.
Earlier, he had unsuccessfully tried to dislodge the then Bhairon Singh Shekhawat-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in 1996, when the CM was away in the United States of America (USA) for bypass surgery.
Sharma, however, had emerged as an ally to Shekhawat 1992, and helped him save the fledgling BJP government in the desert state after the ally Janata Dal quit the coalition in a huff over Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra to drum up support for building a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.
In 1993, Shekhawat-led BJP government came to power, which enjoyed the support of 116 lawmakers, including Janata Dal and Independent MLAs, in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly.
In 1996, Sharma hatched a plot with some Independent MLAs to topple the BJP government, while Shekhawat was away in the USA for bypass surgery.
As luck would have it, Sharma’s machinations came to be known to Shekhawat’s son-in-law Narpat Singh Rajvi in the USA, and the then CM rushed back to Jaipur to save his government from an imminent collapse.
Prakash Bhandari, a Jaipur-based political commentator, recalled that Shekhawat had gone in a huddle with his MLAs at Chokhi Dhani, a popular resort on the outskirts of Jaipur, for a record 15 days before
proving his majority on the floor of the House.
“Sharma was part of the group that had saved Shekhawat’s government in 1992, when the Janata Dal had withdrawn its support following Lal Krishna Advani’s rath yatra,” Bhandari reminisced.
In the 1990 assembly polls, the BJP and the Janata Dal had bagged 85 and 54 seats, respectively, and stitched together a coalition government under Shekhawat’s leadership.
But the Advani-led rath yatra broke the coalition’s back and seven Janata Dal ministers quit the Shekhawat government and reduced it to a minority.
Then, Digvijay Singh formed a splinter Janata Dal group with 22 MLAs, including Sharma, and came to Shekhawat’s rescue.
Sharma was rewarded and made a cabinet minister from the splinter group’s quota.
In January 2014, he had spoken against the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi and was expelled from the party, but later the disciplinary action was revoked.
Later, he got a Congress ticket to contest from Sardarshahar constituency for the 2018 assembly polls and won with a comfortable margin for his seventh term as an MLA.
Sharma was not available for comment, as his mobile phone is switched off since Saturday amid the unfolding political drama over the Gehlot government’s fate.