Not so long ago, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje was hailed as a dynamic and visionary leader. Her economic reforms created a buzz in the country and abroad; initiatives such as “government at your doorstep” and “justice at your doorsteps” were quite popular among people and her flagship programme, Bhamashah Yojana scheme for direct benefit transfers, received praise from one and all.
Ideally, Ms Raje should have used this progressive image to seek re-election, but she seems too eager to abandon it in favour of a more convenient and old fashioned social engineering.
Of late, she has been holding meetings with leaders of different communities for seeking feedback on the government, its schemes and performance of BJP public representatives.
That could have been well justified to an extent, but recently the state government went into a reverse mode, restoring caste-based land allotments. It may be noted here that former CM Ashok Gehlot, had allotted land at throwaway prices to different castes and communities before the 2013 Assembly elections.
After coming to power, Ms Raje immediately constituted a cabinet sub-committee to review these allotments and put a stay on them. Exactly a year ago, her government even cancelled all such allotments describing them as misuse of public land.
But in the final year of her term, she too seems to be succumbing to pulls and pressure of electoral politics. Recently, the urban development department sent letters to all urban improvement trusts and development authorities, seeking details of cancelled land allotments. There were 61 land allotments made by the ex-government. “Recently, the Cabinet decided to allot land to members of various communities. We have been receiving demands from different sections of society for land,” UDH minister Srichand Kriplani said, adding that rates have not been finalised yet. The Congress government had allotted land at a concessional rate of 5% of the reserve price.
The Congress is now accusing the BJP government of trying to buy votes after failing to perform in the past four years.
“It vindicates the decision taken by our government. The BJP vilified our government, but is implementing the same decision. Elections are due next year; therefore, having failed to fulfil its promises, the BJP is now using carrots to lure voters and restoring land allotments to communities is just one such example,” state Congress spokesperson Dr Archna Sharma said.
While, the BJP rejected these allegations, the timing of its U-turn speaks for itself. In fact, playing the caste card is nothing new for Ms Raje. When she was sent to lead the party in the 2003 Assembly polls; she used to boast her caste connections in public meetings. “I am beti of Rajputs (being daughter of Scindia family), bahu of Jats (for marrying a Jat prince) and samdhan of Gurjars (having a Gurjar daughter-in-law),” she said.
Ms Raje had created history by winning absolute majority for the BJP for the first time. Will her magic it work again? We won’t have to wait for too long as three by-polls are due in the state to answer this question.