Rajasthan Elections: Why Both BJP And Congress Value Independent Candidates, How They Became Key To Ashok Gehlot’s Govt

As Rajasthan goes to polls on November 25, the Independent candidates will be crucial for both the BJP and the Congress as they can give an edge to one of these parties at the time of government-formation.

CM Ashok Gehlot at Guarantee Yatra in Jaipur

For the past five years, the Independent MLAs in the Rajasthan assembly have been key to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s agenda. Of the 13 Independents, 10 supported Gehlot twice. First, their support built his case for the chief ministership over that of Sachin Pilot. Second, the MLAs helped him sail through Pilot’s rebellion in 2020. Now, again, the Independents are set to have a key role and both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are seeking them out. 

As Rajasthan goes to polls on November 25, the Independent candidates will be crucial for both the BJP and the Congress as they can give an edge to one of these parties at the time of government-formation. This time, most of the Independent candidates are rebels from Congress and the BJP who are contesting independently after being denied tickets by their party.

Most BJP rebels are Vasundhara Raje loyalists 

Of the prominent 30 Independent candidates, the maximum are rebels from the BJP.  Most of them are loyalists of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who were denied tickets by the party. For instance, Younus Khan, a former cabinet minister close to Raje, was denied a ticket this time. In 2018, Younus was the only Muslim candidate the BJP fielded in the assembly polls. However, he lost the elections from the Tonk constituency where Pilot won with a margin of 50,000 votes.

In 2023, Younus demanded the ticket from Deedwana, his home constituency, but was denied the ticket, leaving him with no option but to contest independently.

Another Raje loyalist, former Union Minister and Assembly Speaker Kailash Meghwal, who was eyeing a ticket to contest the Shahpura Assembly segment, is now contesting as an Independent candidate. Kailash, 89, was expelled from the BJP’s primary membership for entering the fray as an Independent. A month ago, he was included in the party. He was expelled after he levelled corruption allegations against the Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal. In 2018, he lost from Shahpura.

Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, another close aide of Raje and a former cabinet minister, who was also denied a ticket from Jhotwara constituency, has also filed his nomination as an independent candidate but later withdrew it. The saffron party has fielded sitting MP Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as its candidate from Jhotwara. In Sawai Madhopur too, the BJP is facing a similar challenge with Rajya Sabha MP Kirori Lal Meena being fielded against the BJP rebel Asha Meena.

Chittorgarh constituency also remains tricky for the BJP’s candidate Narpat Singh Rajvi after the former sitting MLA from the BJP Chandrakumar Singh Akkya is fighting as an independent candidate. While Akaya was a sitting MLA of BJP from Chittorgarh constituency, Singh was a sitting MLA from Vidhyadhar Nagar constituency in Jaipur, who was this time replaced by BJP MP Diya Kumari.

Rebels from the Congress   

In Congress camp too, managing the impact of the loyalists is unavoidable. A former two-time Congress MLA, Virendra Beniwal from Lunkaransar, was denied a ticket by the Congress party. He had lost the polls in 2013 and 2018. From the Manohar constituency, Kailash Meena, who had unsuccessfully contested from a Congress ticket in 2013 and 2018, is now an Independent candidate. Similarly, Congress rebel Rakesh Boyat is contesting as an independent candidate from the Keshoraipatan constituency.

In the list of potential independent MLAs, what is worth mentioning is that Gehlot loyalists too are fighting against official party candidates. In the Siwana constituency from where Congress has fielded Manvendra Singh, former Union Minister Jaswant Singh’s son, has a fight with independent candidate Sunil Parihar, who is considered close to the CM. Similarly, the former Jodhpur mayor and a close aide of Gehlot Rameshwar Dadhich after being denied a ticket by Congress quit the party and went on to join BJP.

About 20 rebels from Congress are openly challenging official candidates. All eyes are on Sheo seat in Barmer. It has become a hot seat where Rajasthan’s oldest candidate, 84-year-old Congress MLA Ameen Khan, a five-time MLA, is fielded against independent candidates Ravindra Bhati and Congress rebel Fathe Khanis. The BJP has fielded Swaroop Singh Khara, replacing Khuman Singh, who lost to Khan in the 2018 Assembly elections.

While both the BJP and the Congress are leaving no stone unturned to sweep the polls, the crucial role of the independent candidates cannot be ignored by either of them. Rajasthan will go to polls on November 25 and results will be announced on December 3.