For the past few months it was being considered a forgone conclusion that the maverick Rajput leader Devi Singh Bhati would ultimately return to BJP. It was because in the present political scenario he has limited options if he wants to remain a political force, particularly among the Rajputs, who are the traditional supporters of BJP.
Finally he returned to the party on September10 along with thousands of his supporters. He put up an impressive show by organising a big rally to show his popularity among the people in the state. Since it was an important political event, senior central leaders, including Gopinath Munde, Rudra Pratap Singh Rudy and Om Prakash Mathur, came to Jaipur to be present on the occasion.
The ball was set rolling in early September, when Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje took up the issue with party president, Rajnath Singh and other senior party leaders in Delhi. Though some state party leaders were averse of taking Shri Bhati in the party folds, the central leaders were agreed with the assessment of Smt. Raje that his return to the party would help in further consolidating the position of the party among Rajputs, who are considered the most influential in the state.
Though Shri Bhati left the party in August 2003, just before the elections, he was never considered an opponent of BJP.
In fact, BJP and Social Justice Forum (SJF), the political party that Shri Bhati floated just before the Assembly elections, by and large remained friendly during all these years. Soon after the Assembly elections, when Lok Sabha elections were held in May 2004, he announced not to field any candidates of SJF as it would give an advantage to Congress over BJP. In Bikaner, his home district, the SJF supported BJP candidate and film actor Dharmender. Later during the municipal polls, BJP and SJF joined hands and successfully captured the Bikaner Municipality.
Shri Bhati started his political career as Janata Party leader and won the Kolayat assembly seat in Bikaner for record seven times. He came close to Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat around 1990. He was minister in two successive BJP governments, headed by Shri Shekhawat. Just before the assembly elections, he floated Social Justice Forum as a non-political organisation to start an agitation for the reservation of upper castes on the basis of their economic backwardness. He criticised BJP leaders for not taking the cause of economically backward upper castes. His SJF was gaining wider support, which worried the BJP. They were fearing that Shri Bhati would finally convert his SJF into a political party and would harm the prospects of BJP in the Assembly elections. At that time another organisation of Rajputs, the Pratap Foundation, held a huge rally of Rajputs in the state capital for reservation of Rajputs. Its leaders were friendly with BJP. They said that if centre agreed to form a commission to look into the case of reservation for upper castes, including Rajputs, on the basis of their economic backwardness, the Foundation would give a call to support BJP. The then Atal Behari-led NDA government at the centre, agreed to this demand. This decision of the centre to form such a commission, marginalised Shri Bhati and his SJF.
As expected, just before the Assembly elections, Shri Bhati converted SJF into a political party and contested about 70 out of 200 Assembly seats. He thought that his fellow community people would come to his support. But this did not happen. The result was that only he was able to win his Kolayat seat. But the result shows that at least ten of SJF candidates came second to the winning candidates. In all SJF candidates got about 10 lakh votes. Its impact was visible in certain Rajput-dominated areas.
The disheartened Shri Bhati then started looking for other political options. But within few months he found that his joining of BJP would help him in increasing his clout in the party and among the Rajputs. There were times, when it was said that he would be returning to the party in a day or two, but till the last he kept guessing the political observers. The reality was that he was keen to return to the party but on his own terms. This delayed his re-entry in the party on number of times.
There were certain elements in the party who were opposed to his re-entry in the party as they felt that this would harm the party rather than benefiting it. But majority were of the opinion that it would strengthen the party besides enhancing the political stature of Smt. Raje in and outside the party. At the same time it would prove to be an advantage for Shri Bhati to revive him as a political force.
Couple of months back, Smt Raje undertook a Nahar Yatra along the Rajasthan canal to listen to the problems of the farmers in the command area of the canal. The local BJP units were asked to organise kisan rallies, where Smt. Raje could interact with the farmers. But in Bikaner, Shri Bhati offered to organise the kisan rally for Smt. Raje. It was one of the biggest rallies of farmers held during the yatra. By organising the successful rally, Shri Bhati showed his mettle. Since then his return to the party had become imminent.