After bypoll rout, Meena’s return a booster shot for Rajasthan BJP
Kirori Lal Meena, a five-term MLA and two-time MP, is an influential leader and his community has a significant presence in 28 assembly seats in 11 districts of eastern Rajasthanjaipur Updated: Mar 11, 2018 23:07 IST
The ‘ghar wapsi’ of Lalsot MLA Kirodi Lal Meena is being seen as a booster shot to the ruling BJP in Rajasthan ahead of the assembly elections later this year.
Meena, a five-term MLA and two-time MP, is an influential leader and his community has a significant presence in 28 assembly seats in 11 districts of eastern Rajasthan.
An indication of the importance of the move was an emotional chief minister Vasundhara Raje referring to Meena as brother in her speech to welcome him at the state BJP office on Sunday.
Meena, who had left the BJP in 2008 after differences with Raje, also struck the right note, urging the chief minister to forget the friction between them over the past 10 years and exhorting party workers to put the bypoll defeat behind them and work hard to defeat the Congress in the assembly polls.
State BJP president Ashok Parnami said Meena’s entry would strengthen the party even as the Congress downplayed the move. Congress leader Jitender Singh said Meena’s performance as NPP (National People’s Party) president has not been impressive and the community has traditionally supported the Congress. The BJP cadres certainly looked enthused with Meena’s entry.
Meena had launched the Rajasthan unit of NPP ahead of the 2013 state elections and his party has four MLAs in the 200-member assembly. The three other MLAs include Meena’s wife Golma Devi, who was elected from Rajgarh-Laxmangarh, Geeta Verma (Sikrai), and Naveen Pilania (Amber).
While three NPP MLAs returned to the BJP taking its tally to 162 in the assembly, the return of Pilania is uncertain. Pilania has said he will take feedback from people before taking a final decision.
Talk of Meena returning to the BJP gained ground after the results of Meghalaya assembly elections were declared earlier this month. The NPP formed the government in the northeast state with BJP’s support.
Sources said Meena met union home minister Rajnath Singh recently and attended a rally of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan during by-elections in that state last month.
However, Meena’s record in winning elections after he left the BJP is patchy. In 2013 elections, he had claimed the NPP would bag at least 30 seats but the party managed to win four. He contested from two constituencies – Sawai Mahdopur where he lost to erstwhile Jaipur royal Diya Kumari of BJP, and Lalsot that he won by a slender margin of 491 votes.
Ever since Sachin Pilot, a Gujjar, took over the Congress leadership in the state, he has been seen warming up to the Meenas. Raje-led BJP has tried to counter this by making overtures to Meenas while at the same time trying to keep the Gujjars in good humour.