Special Correspondent

Tones down resentment over candidate selection

“Committed to provide support to Gehlot Govt.”

JAIPUR: Veteran Meena leader and Todabhim MLA Kirorilal Meena on Sunday mellowed down his resentment on the issue of selection of candidates by the ruling Congress for seven out of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan and declared that the party “should not be afraid of any threat” from him.

The former BJP leader, who along with five associate MLAs has extended support to the Congress-led Government in the State, told reporters at an informal gathering here that he had offered to make suggestions in the choice of candidates in the interest of the party’s stability and for enhancing the clean image of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

“I have met the party high command in Delhi and reiterated my commitment to provide support to the Government. There is no cause for resentment or bitterness,” said Mr. Meena, adding that he would neither go back to the BJP nor formally get the Congress party membership as of now.

The relationship of Congress with Mr. Meena came under strain recently with the ruling party rejecting his demand for consultation on candidature for seven seats. Mr. Gehlot had stated that no one could dictate his terms to Congress and it was against the party’s culture to accept such suggestions.

The Meena strongman, who earlier hinted at exploring the non-Congress and non-BJP options, said he would continue to be a “strong and integral ally” of Congress as long as the party was on the right track of providing clean, transparent and sensitive governance.

“If the circumstances similar to those during the BJP rule emerge, I will not hesitate to go to the people and take other like-minded MLAs with me,” said Mr. Meena, whose wife Golma Devi is a Minister of State in the Ashok Gehlot Government.

May stand from Dausa

With the stalemate over selection of Congress candidates on seven seats still continuing, Mr. Meena said he might contest from Dausa. The Lok Sabha constituency earlier represented by Sachin Pilot has been reserved for Scheduled Tribes in delimitation.

Mr. Meena’s influence in his caste came to fore when he resigned from the previous BJP-led Government protesting against its “soft response” to the Gujjar agitation for the ST status.

He was perceived as an important factor responsible for BJP’s defeat in the Assembly elections.