MP Poonia, a Jat, at the helm of Government Engineering College in Bikaner (2005-07) kept his surname Poonia and gave away ‘MP’ in his name to Arjun Meghwal, he was secretary of Technical Education department. What academician Poonia got out of the deal was administrative satisfaction as Bikaner Engineering College become at par with other government engineering colleges in the state. Jat protagonists continue to be important factor in political kundali of Arjun Meghwal in years to come; in fact, his politics survives on clandestine support of Jat leaders in Bikaner san party lines.
Story of Arjun Meghwal shows trends of a mediocre approach of positioning himself and trying to be at the right place at the right time. He was born in 1954 in an obscure village named Kismidesar just outside Bikaner. He was selected to allied services in Industry department in state civil service in 1982. The opportunity of life came in 1994 when he was made OSD to Dy CM Harishankar Bhabhra. From here began the relation of Arjun Meghwal with Churu, an obscure district in Rajasthan which always make headlines for wrong reasons every now and then. Meghwal cultivated a close relation with Rajendra Rathore when he was collector Churu and gamble paid off handsomely.
Delimitation of seats in 2008 opened an opportunity for Arjun Meghwal to eye Bikaner seat which was traditionally a Jat stronghold. One trend that continues even today in Bikaner that Jats want a puppet as their MP so that he do not meddle with their local ego battles. Actor Dharmendra was successful in Bikaner for that very reason.
MP Poonia introduced Arjun Meghwal, who was secretary of his department to Bikaner Jats and later Rameshwar Dudi pitched in with his clandestine support to Meghwal against his bête-noire Rewant Ram Panwar. Bikaner Lok Sabha seat was new and Arjun Meghwal was a fresh face but still, he won just by a whisker. A margin of 20000 votes sailed Arjun Meghwal through but Rameshwar Dudi had his revenge on Rewant Ram Panwar. In parliament, Arjun Meghwal resorted to headline grabbing tactics like riding to parliament on cycle and remained in news throughout 2009-13. He became a vocal voice and dalit face of BJP – exactly what doctors had ordered to otherwise ‘twice-born’ BJP. In 2014, Arjun Meghwal won by a margin of more than 3 lakh votes against a meek congress candidate Shankar Pannu. Helping hand of Rameshwar Dudi was visible during the 2014 election from getting an outsider Pannu to contest in Bikaner to heavy voting in Jat dominated areas. He was made MoS Finance under Arun Jaitley but later shifted to ministry of water resources and Ganges rejuvenation, a demotion as delhi power circles considered it.
He likes to pitch in to sing devotional songs among his followers and does not shy away to climb a ladder to search for mobile network on the rooftop in far flung areas of Bikaner. But, with all its glaring mediocrity and opportunism, the politics of Arjun Meghwal plays is focused on Dalits in Bikaner. He had cultivated constituency well by keeping both Dalits and Jats in good humor. But incident of April 2, 2018 has changed his perception on ground in Bikaner. Meghwal was touted as Modi’s one of five ministers from Rajasthan who could be a sure win in 2019 general polls but his son Ravi Shekhar was rumored to be involved in violent incidents during the dalit protest aftermath of SC decision. Arjun Meghwal was one of the visible faces and vocal voice among the dalit MPs who met the President over the issue of SC-ST act.
PM Narendra Modi once considered Arjun Meghwal as a replacement for CM Vasundhara Raje but the idea fizzled out. But Jats in Bikaner started to see him like enemy as he has grown in political size. BJP desperately wants dalit votes and they have no option but to bet on a face like Arjun Meghwal. He was been made one of the important member of the BJP team which would scan the names of assembly candidates for 2018.
Jats in Bikaner are not liking the umbrella size of Arjun Meghwal; Power house of Bikaner politics Devi Singh Bhati has already tried to lay his hands on Meghwal in a program at Naal airport few months ago. Dalit supporters of Dr Vishvanath do not see eye to eye with Arjun Meghwal as his son Ravi Shekhar is eyeing that seat for himself. Some says Arjun Meghwal is acting like Dhritrashtra when it comes to political career of his son. Arjun Meghwal is facing flak not only in Bikaner but from Vasundhara Raje dominated Jaipur circles and not getting enough support from Modi-Shah duo after fiasco at recent SC-ST conference in Bikaner.
It seems that time for respectable retirement from politics has come for the former civil servant as luck may not kiss this son of Kismidesar again.