Bhajanlal Sharma, First-Time MLA, Is BJP’s Rajasthan Chief Minister Choice

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Jaipur:

The BJP — fielding fresh faces for the top jobs in the heartland states it won — appears to have reserved its biggest surprise for Rajasthan. Bhajanlal Sharma, named the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan, is a first-time MLA from Sanganer. The oath ceremony is likely to be held on Friday, December 15, which also happens to be the  Chief Minister’ designate’s birthday.

The MLA, who is from Bharatpur, was not given ticket from there as the seat wasn’t considered winnable for upper castes.

Chhattisgarh’s new Chief Minister Vishnu Deo Sai has been a state BJP chief, a Union Minister of State, and a member of the BJP national working committee. The man replacing Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Mohan Yadav, is a three-time MLA and former minister of the state.

Mr Sharma will have two deputies — “People’s princess” Diya Kumari, who was an aspirant for the top post — and senior leader Prem Chand Bairwa.

One of the longest serving party-men in Rajasthan, Mr Sharma could not be more different from Vasundhara Raje, who helmed state on behalf of the party for three terms.

The 56-year-old, initially associated with the ABVP, the student wing of the party’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has always kept a low profile.

A state general secretary of the party, he is seen as an organisation man, unlike Ms Raje, who was often seen to be at variance with the top leadership.

The selection of a Brahmin face is seen as a safe choice in Rajasthan, where Rajputs and Jats are the dominant castes. But picking a member from either community carries the risk of reverse polarisation next year– a situation the BJP could not afford. Vasundhara Raje was acceptable to both communities as she, an erstwhile royal, was a Rajput who married into a Jat family.  

The BJP has been factoring in caste and class arithmetic in a big way in the heartland states in the run-up to next year’s general election.

Even so, there was speculation that Ms Raje, the party’s tallest leader in the state, will be benched. The pattern is similar to Madhya Pradesh, where four-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Chhattisgarh’s former Chief Minister Raman Singh, were dropped.

Like Shivraj Chauhan in Madhya Pradesh yesterday, Ms Raje was the one to propose the name of the new Chief Minister at the legislature party meeting this afternoon. It was seconded by state leaders Kirori Meena, Madan Dilawar and Jawar Singh.

The show of unity, though, has only drawn public attention to the senior leaders. Throughout yesterday, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh had trended on social media, with intense speculation on what would be next for him.

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