BJP betting on Kirodi Lal Meena but he may no longer be undisputed leader in tribal belt
To accommodate Meena, the BJP had to deny ticket to Om Prakash Hudla, who had defeated Golma Devi from Mahua in the previous election.
Meena said he had changed his wife’s constituency from Rajgarh-Lakshmangarh to Sapotara to take revenge from the Congress MLA Ramesh Meena, who had defeated the BJP’s Rishikesh Meena in 2013.
Addressing a gathering of around 2,000 people, Devi sought votes in the name of her husband. “Is dokre ki izzat ka sawaal hai; mujhe khoob saara vote dena (It is a question of prestige of this old man (Kirodi Lal Meena); please give me a lot of votes),” she said.
Meena has put one more seat at personal stake. He has managed to get a ticket for his nephew Rajendra Meena from Mahua, 150 km from Sapotara. To accommodate Meena, the BJP had to deny ticket to Om Prakash Hudla, who had defeated Golma Devi from Mahua in the previous election. Hudla is in the contest as a rebel candidate and Congress’ Ajay Bohara has made the contest triangular.
Sapotara and Mahua are just two of the 17 constituencies in the Meena belt which spreads across four districts of Rajasthan – Sawai Madhopur, Tonk, Karauli and Dausa. Meenas, who constitute more than 25% of the population in this region, are the deciding factor.
In the 2013 election, the BJP had bagged 12 seats while the Congress won three seats. Two seats went to the National People’s Party (NPP) of Kirodi Lal Meena, who left the party to join the BJP along with all the MLAs.
KIRODI LAL MEENA’S CHARISMA ON THE DECLINE
The results of the upcoming election in the Meena dominated seats are expected to not only decide the fate of the BJP but also chart the political future of Kirodi Lal Meena, who is facing a challenge from within his community.
“Till 2008, there was only Kirodi as community leader of Meenas. But now there are several influential personalities from Meena community who have taken to politics,” said Rajendra Meena, a political analyst.
He said that young Meena leaders such as Ramesh Meena and Om Prakash Hudla have also made a dent in Kirodi Lal’s popularity.
Congress MLA from Sapotara Ramesh Meena, an engineer, who is taking on Kirodi Lal Meena’s wife Golma Devi in Sapotara, has thrown an open challenge to Kirodi Lal. “The time of Kirodi Lal is over. He can’t always get away by telling lies,” he said.
MOOD OF MEENA VOTERS
Rakesh Meena, a tea vendor in Sawai Madhopur, said that this time there is no confusion over who to vote for. “Last time, Dak sahab (as Kirodi Lal is popularly known) was with NPP. We were then divided between the Congress, BJP and NPP. Now that there is no NPP, our votes will go either to Congress or BJP. People in Sawai Madhopur are not happy with Kirodi joining the BJP without taking the community into confidence,” he said. “We fought for his pride he lost in Raje’s BJP. But he joined to become Rajya Sabha member. We feel cheated,” said Gajanand Meena, a paan shop owner near Sawai Madhopur bus stand.