Jaipur, Dec 12 (PTI) 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.
Party sources said the oath taking ceremony is likely to take place on December 15.
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.
He thanked the BJP leadership for giving a “chance” to the son of a farmer and said the party takes care of its workers.
“The BJP is the only party which gives opportunities to its workers. I would like to thank the party’s national and state leadership for giving a chance to the son of a farmer,” Sharma said.
“The BJP is a party that takes care of its workers. The party has honoured a small worker of the organisation. I am thankful for it,” he told reporters at the BJP office.
Following BJP legislature party’s decision, people living in the vicinity of Sharma’s residence here celebrated the moment, with many reaching the Balaji Tower to congratulate his family members.
Sharma along with his wife and sons Abhishek and Kunal, a doctor, stay on the seventh floor of the apartment near Jawahar Circle.
Security has been tightened for Sharma’s family members, who will soon move to the chief minister’s official residence.
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.
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.
The BJP government will work to make Rajasthan a developed state, she told reporters at the party office and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party high command for making her deputy chief minister.
Bairwa, who was declared deputy chief minister along with Kumari, is a Dalit face in the BJP and two-time MLA. 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 engineering graduate, and before entering politics, he was a lecturer at the government polytechnic college in Udaipur. He has a teaching experience of 30 years.
He said his priority as the speaker will be to ensure meaningful debate in the assembly. “My priority will be to run the House by taking everyone along,” Devnani told reporters.
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.
Later in the evening, Sharma offered prayers at the Moti Dungari Ganesh temple. Former leader of opposition in the assembly, Rajendra Rathore, was among those who accompanied the CM-designate to the temple. Sharma also visited the Govind Devji temple.
Polling was held on 199 seats 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