JAIPUR, Dec 12: The BJP on Tuesday picked first-time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma as Rajasthan’s new chief minister, ending days of speculation that followed its victory in the assembly polls.
The surprise choice was announced after BJP MLAs met here and elected the 56-year-old legislator from Sanganer as the leader of its legislature party. He is at present a Rajasthan BJP general secretary.
Diya Kumari and Prem Chand Bairwa will be the deputy chief ministers and Vasudev Devnani the speaker of the state assembly, said senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh, who led a team of three party central observers to oversee the meeting.
Following the meeting at the BJP office here, chief minister-designate Sharma met Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra and staked claim to form the next government in the state.
The BJP won 115 seats in the November 25 assembly elections, while the Congress got 69 seats. Polling was held on 199 of the 200 seats in the state.
BJP state president CP Joshi presented a letter to the governor, informing that Sharma has been elected as the leader of the BJP legislature party in the state, according to a Raj Bhawan statement.
Kumari is a member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family and a Rajput, while Bairwa a Dalit leader and Sharma a Brahmin. Vasudev Devnani is from the Sindhi community.
At the meeting, the CM-designate’s name was proposed by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who was herself considered to be in the running for the top post.
Sharma is the third in the series of little known MLAs who have been elevated by the BJP to the chief minister’s post after the recently held assembly elections, ignoring state stalwarts.
The others are Vishnu Deo Sai, who has been picked as the CM-designate for Chhattisgarh, and Mohan Yadav, who has been picked for the post in Madhya Pradesh.
Elections were held between November 7 and November 30 in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram. The Congress won in Telangana and the Zoram People’s Movement in Mizoram.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-backed Sharma won the Sanganer constituency with a margin of 48,081 votes.
Sharma, who belongs to Bharatpur district, holds a master’s degree in political science.
Prior to the legislature party meeting, a group photo was taken and Sharma is seen standing in the last row.
Before Sharma, Raje was the preferred choice of the BJP for the post for 20 years. She was chief minister twice — from 2003 to 2008 and from 2013 to 2018. The Congress was in power in the state in the intervening years with Ashok Gehlot at the helm.
In what was seen as a show of strength following the November 25 polls, several MLAs had met Raje over a number of days leading to the legislature party meeting.
Singh after the meeting told reporters that Raje had proposed Sharma’s name for the post of leader of the legislature party. This was unanimously accepted, the defence minister said.
He said Devnani, Kirodi Lal Meena, Madan Dilawar and Jawahar Bedham were the first to accept the proposal. Following this, Singh said, he declared the name of the leader of the BJP legislature party — Bhajan Lal Sharma.
“I am assured that in the leadership of Bhajan Lal Sharma, Rajasthan will move on the path of development. All have congratulated Sharma,” he said.
Along with this, Singh also declared that Kumari and Bairwa will be the deputy chief ministers and Devnani the assembly speaker.
Kumari is a two-time MLA and one-time MP and this time she won from Vidhyadhar Nagar with a margin of 71,368 votes.
The 51-year-old BJP leader became an MLA for the first time in 2013 from Sawai Madhopur. In 2019, she was elected as MP from Rajsamand.
Bairwa, who was declared deputy chief minister along with Kumari, is a Dalit face in the BJP. The 54-year-old won the Dudu constituency in the November 25 polls. He defeated Congress’ Babu Lal Nagar with a margin of 35,743 votes. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Rajasthan in Jaipur.
Devnani, who won from Ajmer North, is a former minister. The 77-year-old, who is a five-time MLA, is an engineer and before entering politics, he was a lecturer at the government polytechnic college in Udaipur. He has a teaching experience of 30 years.
Shortly after the announcements, celebrations broke out at the residences of Sharma and the others.
“I thank the people and Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Sharma’s wife told reporters at their residence in Jaipur.
Polling was held on 199 seast as the election in Karanpur was deferred due to the death of Congress candidate and sitting MLA Gurmeet Singh Koonar. It will now be held on January 5. (PTI)