Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Farm crisis, factionalism major issues for BJP Kota candidate Om Birla
Around six months before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP leader Om Birla was elected as a legislator for third consecutive time from Kota South in the 2013 assembly elections, but could not become a minister in the state government.
In the 2013 assembly elections, the BJP had won 163 seats in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly.
However, Birla’s non-inclusion in the state government came as a blessing in disguise when the BJP, looking for a formidable Lok Sabha candidate on the Kota-Baran parliamentary constituency, gave him the party ticket for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Om Birla defeated the scion of erstwhile Kota royal family and then sitting Congress MP Ijyaraj Singh with a margin of over 2 lakh votes in the election.
MIXED PERFORMANCE ON PROMISES
Birla had contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls over the issues of resumption of flight services from Kota airport, reconstruction of collapsed cable-stayed bridge on Chambal river, opening a regional passport office in Kota, extension of the Dakniya railway station in Kota, ensure government purchase of farmers crops on the MSP and infrastructure development.
He has been able to fulfil the promises “partially”. It was Birla’s efforts that led to the reconstruction of the cablestayed bridge, which had collapsed in under-construction stage in 2009. Birla also facilitated the beginning of smaller aircraft flights between Kota and Jaipur, following which the then chief minister Vasundhara Raje flagged off Kota-jaipur flights from Kota Airport in August 2017, but the flights discontinued in April 2018 after operating for a few months.
Although he could not fulfil the promise of opening a separate regional passport office in Kota, but he succeeded in starting the passport making process at the chief post office in Kota, which provides respite to the local people from rushing to Jaipur for making their passports.
However, the biggest failure of his government in Rajasthan came in the form of farm distress, as more than 50 farmers allegedly committing suicides in the Hadoti region during five-year tenure, which was unheard of in the past.
While the BJP-led state government stopped the bonus on government purchase of wheat, the state and union governments did not buy mustard on the MSP for three years during the fiveyear tenure. Garlic farmers complained that they were paid “meagre prices” for their yields. Farmers growing pulses had to sell their produce on losses due to lapses in the government purchase of the crop on MSP. However, farmers were compensated for hailstorm crop damage in Kota in the year 2015.
A farmer leader Dulichand Borda and secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) alleged that after the Modi government’s order, Rajasthan government revoked bonus on the government purchase of wheat, while it also did not implement the Swaminathan Commission’s report and waived off farm loans of farmers. “Just around 8% of the garlic, which is around 7 lakh quintals out of total production of 90 quintals in Kota division, was bought under MIS scheme by government which is nothing but peanuts which did not increase market price of garlic and forced garlic farmers for suicides,” he alleged.
A Kota city resident Ajay Sharma said, “Birla’s performance as an MP is average, as he had ensured construction of cable-stayed bridge that reduced road mishaps in Kota city, but could not do enough to bring industrial investment to Kota and even a public sector unit named Instrumentation Limited closed down in current BJP regime.”
Another resident, Farhan Ahmad said, “Promise of extension of Dakniya railway station has not been fulfilled, which lies close to the coaching zone in Kota and can prove to be useful for the large population of city inhabitants and coaching students living in new Kota.”
FACTIONS WITHIN PARTY A CHALLENGE
There are several BJP factions in Kota, which have augmented with the arrival of former Congress MP Ijyaraj Singh. Former BJP MLA from Kota North, Prahlad Gunjal is believed to be a staunch rival of Birla, while ex-BJP MLA from Ladpura, Bhawani Singh Rajawat had also staked his claim for the BJP ticket from Kota-Baran parliamentary constituency before the declaration of Birla’s name.
Birla is banking on the wave of nationalism and Modi hysteria post incidents like terror attack in Pulwama and airstrikes in Balakot in Pakistan.