And right in the middle of this great divide sits Gopal Gehlot, the expelled district Congress president who is now contesting as a rebel from both Bikaner East and West.
Gehlot comes from backward Mali community. In Congress’ first, list he was nominated to replace party stalwart and former leader of opposition in the state assembly BD Kalla.
Protest followed, so Gehlot was shifted to the adjoining seat. Congress Legislature Party leader Rameshwar Duddi threatened not to contest if his nominee was not accommodated instead. Gehlot was summarily dropped.
So Gopal Gehlot decided to contest as a rebel from two seats- Bikaner East and West.
His election symbol is a pair scissors.
At Mali Samaj Bhawan on the Nagaur Road, Gehlot supporters assemble early morning to plan the day’s campaign.
Maganlal Panecha chatting with others at the forecourt of the community house wonders why Congress leadership created this confusion in ticket distribution.
He is in charge of a block in the district Congress committee and has now come out in open support of Gehlot.
“It is here in the month of October that Rahul Gandhi said that he would not allow parachute candidates. But that is precisely what has happened,” he says.
Sensing an opportunity, BJP national president Amit Shah made an unscheduled visit to Bikaner last week and held a road show to galvanise the party cadre and optimise the situation arising out of the confusion in the Congress camp.
Devendra Gehlot has only last month opened a dhaba on Sikar-Bikaner highway. His fingers neatly work around bajra flour, kneading and mixing dough for dinner.
“There are around 20 thousand votes of the community in the two urban seats. Ashok Gehlot has twice been the chief minister. Let’s see how people vote” he says non-committal on his poll preference this time around.
Bikaner is just one example of how Congress has gone about selecting nominees for the upcoming assembly polls. Top leaders vying for the top job have pushed for the candidature of their supporters. Those left out have rebelled to challenge official party candidates.
Congress has since had to expel more than two dozen rebels, including ex-ministers.
“BJP has handled its rebels more tactfully,” says Ashfaq Kayamkhani, a social worker and political observer in Sikar.
“Top BJP leaders personally spoke to its rebels and placated them. Congress even did not bother to get in touch with former ministers who had filed nominations as independents” he adds.
The discomfiture in the Congress camp has only emboldened the BJP.
“We have improved exponentially after Congress declared its tickets” says BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi.
With leadership issues not settled, the divisions have percolated down to districts and assembly segments.
No surprises thus that top Congress managers have been camping in Jaipur for the last few days attempting to douse the embers of discontent within.