Prakash Bhandari, Rajasthan: Bhanwar Lal Sharma, the dissident Congress MLA who is among those rebelling against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is a controversial figure of Rajasthan politics.
Sharma is under SOG investigation for sedition and criminal conspiracy for his efforts to topple the Gehlot government.
An audio clip purportedly of Sharma was released.
In it, Sharma is heard speaking to a middle man Sanjay Jain about plans to topple the Gehlot government by buying Congress MLAs.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who also figures in the audio clip, is also under probe.
Cops have already arrested Sanjay Jain in the case.
Bhanwar Lal Sharma and former minister Vidhwendra Singh remain suspended from Congress party.
Sharma has been evading arrest and is believed to be holed up in Haryana.
Earlier DGP of Rajasthan, Bhupendra Singh had written to Haryana DGP for co-operation.
The latter however did not even bother to respond to Singh’s letter.
Sharma has meanwhile sought the intervention of the Rajasthan High Court to quash the FIR against him.
He has also asked for an NIA probe in the matter.
He alleged a conspiracy was planned against him by the SOG under pressure from the Gehlot government.
A stormy petrel
Sharma has always courted conflict.
Known for his constant dissent against the leadership and the Congress party, he has been suspended several times from the party in the past.
Sharma has a reputation for conniving with others and has a track record of destabilizing the government.
A seven-time MLA from Sardarshar in Churu district, Sharma is the self-appointed leader of the Brahmin community.
Sharma was upset over not being made a minister by Gehlot despite his seniority.
In 1996-97, Sharma engineered to destabilize the Bhairon Singh Shekhawat government by leading a rebellion when the latter was in the US for heart surgery.
While in Congress, he helped the party muster support from other MLAs when they fell short of the number.
This time however he chose to pick a battle with his own chief minister.
Sharma was suspended for his caustic remarks against both Sachin Pilot and Rahul Gandhi before the 2008 assembly election.
He, however, continued to be with the party and as a powerful leader of the Churu district he was nominated to contest from the Sardarshahr seat which he won.
Who is Bhanwar Lal Sharma?
Born in Jaitiyasar in Churu district in 1945, Bhanwar Lal Sharma began his political career at the panchayat level, eventually becoming the sarpanch and then Pradhan.
A Congress worker from the very beginning, he quit the party in 1985 to join Lok Dal and won the Sardarshahr seat in the Vidhan Sabha election.
Under the influence of Devi Lal, he joined the Janata Dal.
He won again in 1990 and became a minister in Shekhawat’s cabinet in the BJP-Janta Dal coalition government.
But in 1990, he along with seven other cabinet ministers quit the Shekhawat cabinet protesting L K Advani’s Rath yatra.
By then he had emerged as a powerful Brahmin leader.
The Janta Dal MLAs founded a separate group under Digvijay Singh in 1990 and 22 MLAs supported this new group.
This new group of Janta dal ( Digvijay Singh) rendered its support to the Shekhawat ministry.
It was Sharma who was instrumental in forming this group and helped Shekhawat.
Sharma was rewarded for his services and was made a minister by Shekhawat.
But the Shekhawat government was dismissed by the Narsimha Rao government following the Ayodhya incident in 1993.
After the 1993 Ayodhya incident, the Rajasthan Assembly was dissolved and the state came under President’s rule.
But when the Vidhan sabha elections were held again, Shekhawat was able to form the government with a majority of 116 MLAs in a House of 200.
Shekhawat government was supported by Janta Dal’s six MLAs and a few Independents.
Later, Sharma joined BJP but was expelled from the party for his anti-party activities.
He led a revolt against Shekhawat and tried to topple his government.
Sharma then returned to Congress but lost to BJP candidate in 2013 when the BJP formed the government with a massive majority.
Sharma, however, remained with the Congress and got re-elected in 2018, but took a stand against Gehlot as he was not made a minister.
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