Political leaders across party lines expressed their grief over the death of the 77-year-old leader at Jaipur’s Sawai Man Singh Government Hospital.
Last elected in 2018 on a Congress ticket, Sharma was seen in the state’s political circles as a shrewd politician who managed to remain politically relevant, including allegedly trying to topple governments – or prevent them from toppling.
More recently, he was accused of being the main architect of the Sachin Pilot camp of legislators’ 2020 attempt to topple Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s government.
My deepest condolences on the resolution of Mr. Bhanwarlal Sharma, Congress MLA from Sardarshahr (Churu). From time to time and going there, their health konza I to contact their family, call night sms reach the hospital to know the information and from the family what was the child. pic.twitter.com/3DZXVC1lK2
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) October 9, 2022
He was first elected as an MLA from Sardarshahr in 1985 on a Lok Dal ticket.
In 1990, he was re-elected as a Janata Dal MLA from Sardarshahr. Later that year, the Janata Dal, with 55 of its MLAs, withdrew support to the Bhairan Singh Shekhawat-led BJP government in the state following the arrest of then BJP chief LK Advani and communal violence that claimed many lives in Rajasthan.
The BJP had only 85 MLAs of its own, 16 short of a simple majority. However, Shekhawat created a faction of the Janata Dal, with a breakaway unit of 25 MLAs headed by Digvijoy Singh continuing to support the BJP. Then Bhanwarlal Digvijoy became minister from Kota saving Shekhawat’s government.
The Shekhawat government was short-lived despite the support of rebel Janata Dal legislators. In December 1992, in the wake of the Babri demolition, Rajasthan was placed under President’s Rule. After elections were held the following December, Shekhawat again became chief minister, but Sharma, who contested on a BJP ticket against Narendra Budania of the Congress, lost.
By 1996, Sharma returned to the Janata Party and won Sardarshahr in the by-election.
But that same year, Sharma was in the news again, this time for allegedly trying to topple Shekhawat’s government while Shekhawat was in the US for a surgery. In the past, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has often referred to Sharma’s 1996 attempt, saying Sharma had also approached him to take part in the alleged scheme but he had turned him down on moral grounds.
Two years later, Sharma again switched parties and moved to the Congress, winning the 1998 elections on his ticket from Sardarshahr. He won the seat again in 2003, lost it in 2008, but won it again in 2013 despite the Congress having less than 21 MLAs in the Rajasthan Assembly.
“Having risen from the grassroots, he maintained a strong connection with workers and locals in Churu,” recalled Congress leader Swarnim Chaturvedi, “He (Sharma) was among the tallest politicians from Churu. He was also known for his social work and helping people. was always prepared for.”
Sharma was also the president of the Rajasthan Brahmin Mahasabha and had a good hold over the community.
Though Sharma did not jump ship after joining the Congress, he was suspended from the party twice – once, in 2014, for attacking Rahul Gandhi after the party’s massive loss in the Lok Sabha elections, and again in 2020, when he was among the 19. Pilot camp MLAs who rebelled against the Gehlot-led government. The Congress shared an alleged audio clip of Sharma alleging conspiracy against the government along with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
However, when it seemed that the rebellion had failed, Sharma was among the first MLAs to visit Gehlot’s Jaipur residence.
Over the past few months, Gehlot had constantly inquired about Sharma’s health. On Saturday night too, Gehlot went to the hospital and spoke to the doctor and Sharma’s son Anil.
“My deepest condolences on the death of Mr. Bhanwarlal Sharma… I pray to God to give strength to the bereaved family in this difficult time and to grant peace to the departed soul,” Gehlot tweeted on Sunday.
Former Chief Minister Bashundhara Raje said, “Sad to hear the death of Sardarshahr MLA Pandit Bhanwar Lal Sharma ji. Sharma ji was a great public representative dedicated to his area. I respect him. Om Shanti.”
Governor Kalraj Mishra, former deputy CM Sachin Pilot, BJP state president Satish Punia and others have condoled Sharma’s death.