Jaipur: Several Rajasthan Congress leaders including former ministers Rajendra Yadav and Lal Chand Kataria joined the BJP Sunday, days before the expected announcement of the Lok Sabha elections. Former Congress MLAs Ricchpal Mirdha, his son Vijaypal Mirdha and Khiladi Bairwa; former independent MLA Alok Beniwal, former state chief of Congress Seva Dal Suresh Chaudhary, Rampal Sharma and Riju Jhunjhunwala among other leaders also joined the state’s ruling party.

Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot hit out these leaders, saying “people are saying they have pressure from central agencies therefore they are leaving the Congress and joining the BJP”.

It is a second major jolt to the Congress within a few days as former minister Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya recently joined the BJP which fielded him from Basnwara in the LS elections.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhajanlal Sharma, state BJP president C P Joshi and Union minister Bhupendra Yadav welcomed the new joinees into the party fold at its state headquarters here.

Addressing the joining ceremony, Kataria said he was driven by his conscience to join the BJP. He said the BJP understands the pain and suffering of farmers, the poor and the common man.

It was Chief Minister Shama who worked to resolve the issue of the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project, Kataria added. Bairwa, who was the chairman of the SC Commission during the previous Congress rule, hit out at former chief minister Gehlot, saying he “considered SC people his slaves”. Rajendra Yadav and Lal Chand Kataria were ministers in the Congress government headed by Ashok Gehlot which was voted out of power in November 2023 elections. Kataria was also a Union minister of state in the previous UPA government.

Yadav said the BJP will win all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

When he was a minister in the Gehlot cabinet, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department carried out searches on premises linked to him in connection with an alleged fraud in midday meals.

Ricchpal Mirdha is uncle of former Congress MP Jyoti Mirdha, who joined the BJP ahead of the 2023 assembly elections. Jyoti Mirsha has been named as the BJP’s candidate from Nagaur for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Vijaypal Mirdha is Ricchpal Mirdha’s son.

The Mirdha family wields influential in the Jat-dominated Nagaur and nearby areas.

Ricchpal Mirdha said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee gave reservation to the Jat community, while the Modi government has made Jagdeep Dhankhar, the son of a farmer, the vice president of India.

There are three governors from the Jat community, he said. “What did the Congress give us?”

Apart from them, former MLA Randhir Singh Bhindar, who quit the BJP to form his Janta Sena outfit, merged with the saffron party.

Bhindar said he struggled for 11 years after separating from the BJP due to certain reasons but never joined the Congress. He added he was returning to his family.

A BJP spokesperson said that a total of 13,70 leaders including senior leaders and pradhan, Zila parishad members and panchayat samiti members joined the party today.

Chief Minister Sharma alleged the Congress sought votes in the name of farmers but cheated them. He also accused the party of corruption and scams.

Alok Beniwal is the son of the former Gujarat governor Kamla Beniwal.

Gehlot said these leaders were made Union ministers, state ministers and given other big positions in the Congress but they left the party in difficult time.

“In difficult times for the party, they are leaving the party and running away. Many people are saying that they are under pressure from central agencies and hence are joining the BJP,” he posted on X.

“This is not the time to bow down to any pressure but to save democracy and fight for the future of the country,” he said.

Gehlot said party leaders should take inspiration from the Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi and his entire family were “harassed” by the Enforcement Directorate for many days on the pretext of questioning and his Parliament membership was also cancelled, he said.

“They were under intense pressure. Through the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, he (Rahul Gandhi) is travelling across the country and creating public awareness against injustice, inflation, hatred and unemployment. This is how to fight boldly in politics,” he said.

“Today, there is pressure on every institution in the country and every person is feeling the atmosphere of tension. This tension and pressure has to be countered which only the Congress Party can do. Only the Congress can keep the country’s democracy strong and safe,” Gehlot added.

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