Lok Sabha Elections 2019: BJP’s Bikaner candidate Arjun Ram Meghwal faces cousin in battle for third term
Former IAS officer Arjun Ram Meghwal won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Bikaner by more than three lakh votes, defeating Congress’s Shankar Pannu.Updated: Apr 15, 2019 15:10 IST
Two-time BJP MP from Bikaner Arjun Ram Meghwal hogged headlines for pedalling to parliament, inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal to all state environment ministers to reduce carbon emission by cycling one day every week. He is again contesting the general election from the Bikaner seat on a BJP ticket and is hopeful of adding to Modi’s strength in the Lok Sabha. But the road to Delhi is bumpier this time for Arjun Ram as he is facing challenges in his electoral battle, if political dynamics in the seat and voters’ discontentment are considered.
Former IAS officer Arjun Ram won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Bikaner by more than three lakh votes, defeating Congress’s Shankar Pannu. This time the Congress has fielded Madangopal Meghwal, a retired IPS officer and a cousin of Arjun Ram.
Arjun Ram entered politics in 2009 after resigning from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Madan Gopal took VRS from the Indian Police Service (IPS) before the assembly elections in 2018. The Bikaner constituency, a BJP stronghold for the last 15 years, was a general seat till 2004. The constituency was reserved for scheduled caste candidates after delimitation in 2008. Arjun Ram was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 from Bikaner, which was earlier represented by Bollywood star Dharmendra.
The BJP leader is facing infighting within the party as former minister Devi Singh Bhati has been opposing his candidature accusing Arjun Ram of working as an agent of the Congress. The battle has become tougher this time as the CPI(M) has fielded Sheopat Ram who lost the assembly election from Raisinghnagar seat.
Equation between upper and reserved castes will play a major role on the Lok Sabha seat comprising eight assembly seats -- seven in Bikaner district and one seat, Anupgarh, in Sriganganagar district. The BJP now holds four -- Anupgarh, Nokha, Lunkarnsar, and Bikaner East. Bikaner West, Kolayat and Khajuwala seats are with the Congress; the CPI(M) won Dungargarh in the recent assembly election.
Many locals alleged that Meghwal spoiled the expectations of voters to achieve his own ambitions. Mihir Aatreya, a first-time voter, said, “We were expecting more opportunities for permanent employment but he (the MP) failed to push for development projects. He claimed sanction for a strategic crude oil reserve in Bikaner district, but did nothing to make it a reality.”
Om Prakash Choudhary, a private teacher, said “He created differences between general and reserved communities through sanctions from his MPLAD fund and discretionary quota. Commencement of air service in Bikaner can be considered as his only achievement, but he failed to solve the problem of railway gates in which the Centre could have played a significant role to resolve the issues between the railway and the state government.”
Locals alleged that Arjun Ram’s differences with former chief minister Vasundhra Raje were the biggest obstacle in the development of Bikaner.
Meghwal’s attendance in the Lok Sabha was 98%. He participated in 166 debates and asked 343 questions. He got 16 private member bills passed and spent 69.24% of MPLAD.
Meanwhile, the Congress candidate Madan Gopal Meghwal said infrastructure and industrial development was stalled during Arjun Ram’s tenure. “His term was disappointing in all aspects of performance and governance. He did nothing for the betterment of common man. He has failed in bringing new projects to Bikaner as well as fulfilling his promises,” Madan Gopal. “I am aware about allegations of casteism against him but let the public answer this through votes. I don’t know much about the differences between the former BJP government and Arjun Ram but the people suffered due to the differences.”’
First Published: Apr 15, 2019 15:10 IST