Gujjar issue still haunts Raje, though community divided

November 6th, 2008 - 12:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyJaipur, Nov 6 (IANS) The Gujjar issue continues to haunt the Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan.Even Chief Minister Raje is not confident of victory from Jhalrapatan in Jhalawar district, the constituency she represents now. Gujjars form a substantial chunk of the voters there.

To play it safe, Raje is now considering contesting from another constituency in Jaipur district as well. “We would certainly try to see that she is defeated from Jhalrapatan,” Ramprasad, a Gujjar from the area, told IANS.

To make things worse for the chief minister, Prahlad Gunjal, a Gujjar leader and expelled Bharatiya Janata Party legislator, is planning to stand against her in Jhalrapatan.

“If Raje fights from Jhalrapatan, then I would surely contest from there,” Gunjal said.

Rajasthan goes to the polls Dec 4. The state assembly has 200 seats.

But the Gujjar community in Rajasthan - which brought the state to a standstill twice in the last two years over demand for reservations - is a divided lot now. The two agitations, in 2007 and 2008, for reservation under tribal status in which around at least 68 were killed, have left deep scars on the minds of the cattle rearing community.

Gujjars constitute around 5-6 percent of Rajasthan’s 56 million people. They are classified now among Other Backward Classes (OBC) in the state. Their demand has been for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status instead.

In June this year, the Rajasthan government accepted the demand partially and agreed to give five percent reservation to the Gujjar, Banjara and Rabari communities collectively under a special category.

A bill related to this was passed by the state assembly a few days after this announcement and is awaiting clearance of the governor.

But the Gujjars are not happy and opinion is divided among their leaders about whether what they got is satisfactory. One faction led by Col (retd) K.S. Bainsla, the convener of Gujjar Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti, believes it was the best deal they could have brokered with the Raje government.

The other faction feels that they have been cheated by both the state government and their leaders, who had promised them they would not agree to anything less then ST status.

The division in the community is rubbing off on its electoral choices. While Bainsla supporters are all for voting the BJP back to power and are seeking nominations from the party, the other faction has started plumping for the Congress.

“We have decided to work towards ousting the BJP. We are requesting our community members to vote for any other party, including the Congress,” said Sukhbeer Singh Jaunpuria, national president of the Akhil Bhartiya Gujjar Sangarsh Samiti.

“Gujjars are completely dissatisfied with the five percent reservation. It is only a ploy by Raje to create a rift in the community”, said Roop Singh, a Gujjar leader.

“Our original demand for tribal status remains. She has fooled us. Our slogan this time is Raje Harao Rajasthan Bachao (Save Rajasthan by making Raje lose elections)”, said Attar Singh, another Gujjar leader.

He claimed that 80-85 percent of the Gujjars in Rajasthan are against the Raje government.

Meanwhile, Bainsla supporters have started to exert pressure on Rajasthan Governor S.K. Singh to clear the pending reservation bill. They recently took out a rally in support of this.

“The Congress party is trying to scuttle the passage of the bill. We will not vote for the party which is against the interest of our community. We have asked our community members not to vote for Congress candidates in the forthcoming assembly elections,” said H.P. Gujjar, a Bainsla supporter.

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