Bhanwarlal Sharma: a cunning politician in Rajasthan who remained relevant throughout his life

Political leaders of all parties expressed their condolences on the death of the 77-year-old leader at Sawai Man Singh Government Hospital in Jaipur.

Last elected in 2018 on a congressional ticket, Sharma was seen in state political circles as a cunning politician who had managed to remain politically relevant, including through alleged attempts to overthrow governments – or prevent they were overthrown.

He was recently accused of being a key architect of the 2020 attempt by MLA’s Sachin Pilot camp to overthrow Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot’s government.

सरदारशहर (चूरू) से कांग्रेस विधायक श्री भंवरलाल शर्मा के निधन पर मेरी गहरी संवेदनाएं। काफी समय से वो अस्वस्थ चल रहे थे, उनके स्वास्थ्य को लेकर मैं के सम्पर्क में था, कल रात एसएमएस अस्पताल पहुंचकर चिकित्सकों से जानकारी ली और परिवार से मुलाकात की थी। pic.twitter.com/3DZXVC1lK2

— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) October 9, 2022

Born in 1945 in the village of Jaitsisar in Churu, Sharma began his political career as a sarpanch in Churu, which includes Sardarshahar, in the 1960s. He married Manohari Devi in ​​1965 and had two sons and two daughters with her.

He was first elected as an MLA in 1985, from Sardarshahar, on a Lok Dal ticket.

In 1990, he was re-elected from Sardarshahar as Janata Dal MLA. Later that year, the Janata Dal, with its 55 MLAs, withdrew its support for the Bhairon Singh Shekhawat-led BJP government in the state following the arrest of then-BJP chief LK Advani and the ensuing inter-communal violence that claimed many lives. demanded in Rajasthan.

The BJP itself had only 85 MLAs, 16 less than a simple majority. However, Shekhawat is said to have set up a division of Janata Dal, with a breakaway unit of 25 MLAs led by Digvijay Singh to support the BJP. When Bhanwarlal saved the government of Shekhawat, he became minister of the Digvijay quota.

Despite the support of the rebel Janata Dal MLA’s, Shekhawat’s government was short-lived. In December 1992, in the wake of the demolition of Babri, Rajasthan was placed under the rule of the president. After elections were held in December, Shekhawat became CM again, but Sharma, who fought Congress’ Narendra Budania on a BJP ticket, lost.

In 1996, Sharma was back in Janata Dal and achieved Sardarshahar in a bypoll.

But the same year, Sharma was in the news again, this time for allegedly attempting to overthrow Shekhawat’s government while Shekhawat was in the US for an operation. In the past, Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot has often mentioned Sharma’s attempt in 1996, saying that Sharma had also approached him to participate in the alleged plan, but had rejected it for moral reasons.

Two years later, Sharma again changed sides and moved to Congress, winning Sardarshahar’s 1998 polls on her ticket. He won the seat again in 2003, lost it in 2008, but won it in 2013, despite the Congress being reduced to just 21 MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly.

“He came from the grassroots and continued to have a strong bond with the workers and locals in Churu,” Congress leader Swarnim Chaturvedi recalled. “He (Sharma) was one of Churu’s tallest politicians. He was also known for his social work and was always ready to help people.”

Sharma was also the president of Rajasthan Brahmin Mahasabha and had a good grip on the community.

Although Sharma did not disembark after joining Congress, he was suspended twice by the party: once, in 2014, for attacking Rahul Gandhi after the party’s massive loss in the Lok Sabha elections, and then in 2020, when he was one of 19. Pilot camp MLAs who had rebelled against the Gehlot-led government. Congress had shared an alleged audio clip of Sharma allegedly colluding against the government with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

However, when it appeared that the uprising had failed, Sharma was one of the first MLAs to visit Gehlot at his hometown in Jaipur.

For the past few months, Gehlot had been constantly inquiring about Sharma’s health. Also on Saturday night, Gehlot visited the hospital and spoke with doctors and Sharma’s son, Anil.

“My deepest condolences on the passing of Shri Bhanwarlal Sharma…I pray to God to give strength to the bereaved at this very difficult time and give peace to the departed soul,” Gehlot tweeted Sunday.

Former CM Vasundhara Raje said: “Sad to hear the news of the passing of Sardarshahar MLA Pandit Bhanwar Lal Sharma ji. Sharma ji was a noble public representative who was devoted to his area. I pay my respects to him. Om Shanti.”

Governor Kalraj Mishra, former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, BJP President Satish Poonia, among others, expressed their condolences on Sharma’s passing.

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