R’sthan RS polls: BJP plays last-minute gamble, fields 2nd candidate

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BY ARCHANA SHARMA
Jaipur, March 13 (IANS)
The BJP played a last-minute gamble on Friday by fielding two candidates for Rajya Sabha polls — it is sure to get only one seat. The party is trying to cash in on Congress factionalism which came to the fore after candidates recommended by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot were shortlisted while those suggested by his deputy Sachin Pilot were “ignored”.
Factionalism within the Rajasthan Congress was again evident after the party officially declared its candidates, prompting the BJP to cash in on the party split by fielding two candidates at the eleventh hour, reducing the chances of a unanimous election and making the fight tougher.
On Friday, Congress candidates K.C. Venugoal, party general secretary from Kerala, and state Youth Congress’ former president Neeraj Dangi filed their papers after their names were officially declared on Thursday night. The BJP’s Rajendra Gehlot also filed his papers the same day.
However, what came as a surprise was the last-minute candidature of senior BJP leader Omkar Singh Lakhawat.
Lakhawat is perceived to be the last-minute choice by the BJP trying to garner benefit from a divided Congress. According to deputy leader of opposition Rajendra Rathore, the BJP’s decision was influenced by reports of division in the Congress.
While there are whispers for bringing in a candidate from Delhi (Venugopal), there are questions been raised on the second choice Dangi who has lost three Assembly elections as a Congress candidate.
Rajendra Gehlot, the BJP candidate, said the Congress is carrying a family legacy and has nothing concrete to offer to its party workers who are leaving the party.
Meanwhile, Dangi, who is said to be close to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, said he would take every one together and raise Rajasthan’s development in Parliament. “There is no protest over the recommended names,” he said.
Congress sources, however, said there was no unanimity within the party on backing Dangi as he had lost elections from Sirohi district thrice.
Sources said Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot wanted to bring in Kuldeep Indora as a Rajya Sabha candidate, but his suggestion was ignored.
The Rajya Sabha elections are due on March 26.
As per the Assembly arithmatic, the Congress is sure to get two seats while one will go to the BJP. Out of total 10 seats, one seat as of now is with Congress as the party had fielded former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the death of former RS MP Madanlal Saini.
In the 200-member Rajasthan Assembly, the BJP’s strength is 73 while Congress stands at 119.