Rajasthan: Royals In Politics
The royals and the jagirdars in Rajasthan lost their kingdom and fiefdom following the merger of princely states into Indian Union following the Independence. The principal rulers of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Kota, Bikaner, Alwar, Bharatpur, Kishangarh, Karauli and also the jagirdars under the erstwhile states with a view to having a share in power decided to contest the elections for both Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha in the 1952 first general election in the state. The rulers and jagirdars were very much against the Congress as it was Congress who snatched their kingdom and the princes floated their own Ram Rajya Parishad party and in the first election to the Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha a large number of the princes and the jagirdars were elected. Even the commoner Rajputs joined the Ram Rajya Parishad with the exception of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who opted to be with Bharatiya Jan Sangh, a party that was founded by Syama Prasad Mookerjee.
In the first Lok Sabha, the ruler of Jodhpur Hanwant Singh contested from Jodhpur and won but as fate would have it he died in an air crash even after he was declared winner from Jodhpur to Lok Sabha. Girraj Saran Singh of Bharatpur and Dr Karni Singh of Bikaner went to the Lok Sabha. Thakurs and jagirdars won in big numbers in the Vidhan Sabha election, yet the Congress, which fielded a large number of freedom fighters, outnumbered the feudal lords and successfully formed the government. Some of the Rajputs that included Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who contested on the Jan Sangh ticket won. All the eight Jan Sangh winners were Rajputs.
The Rajputs wanted the Jan Sangh to oppose the abolition of the jagirdari system, but the Jan Sangh did not support the Rajputs after that the Rajputs stopped their support to the Jan Sangh. Yet because of Shekhawat, the poor Rajputs continued their support to the Jan Sangh.
But after 1952 first general election, the royals started losing interest in politics, but they supported their candidates who contested the general elections and slowly the Ram Rajya Parishad started losing its grip on the people who wanted a truly democratic set up in the state.
Yet , the Thakurs and the jagirdars made their presence felt. Some of the Rajput feudal lords, who were witnessing the change, joined the Congress and the first among them were Narayan Singh Masuda, Laxmi Kumar Chundawat and Nawab Amamuddin Khan of Loharu.
The princes and the jagirdars, who suffered heavily for the second time losing their large chunk of land because of the introduction of the Land Ceiling Act, joined hands together when Maharani Gayatri Devi founded Swatantra Party in the state. Gayatri Devi with her glamorous figure and charm made the Swatantra Party a force to reckon with and the princes and the Rajput feudal lords joined her. The Swatantra Party was supported by the rich industrialists and businessmen, who were given nominations for the Lok Sabha election. Between 1962 and 1967, the Swatantra Party became the leading opposition party. But it was the Jan Sangh that because of the better organisational set-up increased its base and the Swatantra Party knowing the strength of the Jan Sangh became its allies in the 1967 Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections and the combo of the Jan Sangh and the Swatantra Party collectively won 89 seats in a House of 184. It was a serious setback to the Congress, yet it was able to form the government with the support of Independents and smaller parties. Then there was no anti-defection law.
“UPA GOVT HAS FAILED ON ALL FRONTS” —Diya Kumari
Almost five decade after her step grandmother the late Gayatri Devi of Jaipur stepped out from the palace to contest the Lok Sabha election in 1962, now it is the Princess Diya Kumari who has announced her entry into active politics. Diya Kumari, the only daughter of the late Maharaja Brig Bhawani Singh and Padmini Devi, is trying to write a different script. In her own Pink City before a mammoth crowd of about two lakh persons and in the presence of BJP president Rajnath Singh and Prime Minister in-waiting Narendra Modi, she joined the BJP along with Olympic meadllist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathor. In an exclusive interview to Prakash Bhandari at the Jaipur’s City Palace, she talks freely about her plans for future and what she intends to do in the BJP. Excerpts:
What inspired you to join politics?
■ I was never interested in politics, but for last few years I have been noticing that the Congress, which has ruled for majority of the time after the country gained Independence, could not deliver the goods. The country’s development for the past six and a half decade has not touched the desired heights. There is a family legacy in politics and my grandmother Rajmata Gayatri Devi was in politics and launched the Swatntra Party. My father Maharaja Bhawani Singh joined the Congress. Yet, I distanced myself from politics and my friends also advised me to keep away from politics. But, I found that I cannot be a mute witness anymore and have to be a proactive person who reacts to things happening around you. I particularly noticed that the women are not safe in the country and are the easy targets of the evil eyes. The UPA government has failed on all fronts and has made the whole country corrupt and has hardly done anything worthwhile in the past 10 years. I thought every individual can contribute to the country and make our country strong and self-sufficient in every way.
Look, I have been doing my bit and am running an NGO. I am the state head of Assocham and I am trying to see that the farmers take active interest in organic farming. Solar energy is another area where we can work and achieve the desired results. But there was a need for a political platform to work and I was thinking which party I should support and join actively.
How did the idea come to join the BJP?
■ As I said my father was in the Congress and even contested the 1989 Lok Sabha election, but it was at the instance of the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who was his friend that he joined the Congress. It was a mistake that he committed as it was not the right political outfit. He was a war hero who won the Mahavir Chakra for gallantry in the 1971 war against Pakistan. He took retirement from the army as he wanted to do something for the people of Jaipur. So far, he had kept himself away from politics. He did his best without having any power. In our country, one cannot do much until one has power. At Rajiv Gandhi’s insistence, he contested the election from Jaipur as a Congress candidate. But to his horror, he found that he was opposed by his own party people who thought he would become powerful if the Congress comes to power. He lost and it came as an example to us in the family. That was one reason why I kept away from politics. But later, I realised that one can contribute in a positive way even being in politics and I started thinking on these lines.
It is a known fact that you were inspired by Vasundhara Raje.
■ Yes, I have no hesitation in admitting that Vasundharaji really inspired me (laughs). I have great admiration for Vasundharaji who, to me, is really a woman of substance. She has emerged as a strong persona in politics and made a place for herself the hard way and has survived in a male-dominated political system with grit and determination. She had served as Rajasthan Chief Minister for five years and started a new development process and knew how to govern. She believed in sustainable growth unlike the Gehlot government that became vote centric and started offering freebies to ensure electoral success. She gave development a new momentum which is not visible now. The Gehlot government feels freebies like free medicine and pensions are part of the development process. It is nothing but corrupting people and making them dependent.
What do you think of Narendra Modi as a Prime Minister candidate?
■ Yes, he is a person that the country needs. He is person who believes in development and economic prosperity. Look what he has done in Gujarat. He made Gujarat the most ideal destination for investment as the state is a corruption-free state and the investors are supported by the government. If every state follows the Gujarat model, the country will be different. If he is made the Prime Minister, he would turn India into a sone ki chiriya. He has ideas and is loved by the youth. I am certainly a big admirer of Modi and would like to see him as the Prime Minister. He is capable of turning India into a big economic power taking everybody with him.
Are your husband Narendra Singh and children supportive to
■ Yes, it was a collective decision and my husband fully supported me. My husband is a commoner. He does not have a princely background and when I wanted to marry him he plainly told me that he is from an ordinary stock. He was trying to be a chartered accountant and used to come to City Palace for doing audit when I met him. It took us seven years to understand each other before we agreed to get married. He is a common man and has ideas about the welfare of a common man. Naturally, I was also inspired by his ideas and when the question came to join politics, he also suggested that the BJP is an ideal forum and I joined the BJP.
But politics is not a bed of roses.
■ Yes, I understand it. Look, I may live in palace which is my home but as a child when my father was posted in the army, I lived the life of an ordinary army officer’s daughter. I lived in cantonment houses and even rented houses in Delhi where he was posted. Those houses never had the luxury of the palace. I lived and grew up with ordinary people. Children of armed forces people are taught how to be disciplined and even I was taught how to be a disciplined child. My parents loved me but never allowed me to be a pampered child and now I also teach my children what discipline is. I am trying to groom my children the way I was groomed and I particularly teach them not t o have any false pride.
The royals of Kota’s Ijyeraj Singh and Alwar’s Jitendra Singh are in the Congress. Didn’t they approach you to join the Congress?
■ No. If they are in the Congress, they are there because they like the Congress ideologies and I have nothing against them. I was inspired by Vasundharaji and I liked the ideologies of the BJP and now I am part of the ideology and would also propagate it. I would stress here that I am in politics not for any personal gains. The BJP is a forum that I have chosen to serve the people.
Maharawal Laxman Singh of the Swatantra Party was a tall leader, but he could not do anything to make the Swatantra Party a strong political outfit. And after 1971, the Swatantra Party lost its sheen and the Rajputs either joined the Congress or became a part of the Jan Sangh.
The Rajputs and the former rulers and feudal lords found that they were more acceptable if they are associated with the leading parties. The wind of change was visible and after the 1971 war against Pakistan, the stock of the Congress got a boost because of the victory against Pakistan.
But in 1977, the elections that were held after the Emergency saw a new political outfit born, namely Janata Party, which was a party of mixed breed and was founded to defeat the Congress and it was successful also.
In 1977, Shekhawat, who was challenged by Maharawal Laxman Singh, eventually proved that a commoner Rajput can become the Chief Minister and since then the former princes and the jagirdars opted to choose their own party.
The former princely states of Dholpur has given a Chief Minister as its Maharani Vasundhara Raje was Chief Minister between 2003 and 2008. She was also a member of the Lok Sabha, but she was elected from a different former principality Jhalawar. Her son is now the member from Khalawar in Lok Sabha.
Vishvendra Singh and his wife Divya Singh have been in both Janta Dal, BJP and Congress and served Lok Sabha as well as Vidhan Sabha. Prthviraj of Jaipur was a member of Lok Sabha and his brother Jai Singh a member of Vidhan Sabha.
From Kota, Brijraj Singh represented Jhalawar thrice in Lok Sabha and now his son Ijyeraj Singh represents Kota in the lower house. From Jodhpur, Rajmata Krishna Kumari served Lok Sabha and now her daughter is Lok Sabha member.
After Karni Singh, who had been elected to Lok Sabha from Bikaner for five times, Rajkumari Siddha Kumari is an MLA. Karauli made Brijendra Pal, Krishna Pal and now Rohini Kumari MLAs.
Similarly, the list of jagirdars is long who have opted different political parties. But now the princes are commoners and without the support of the major political outfits they find it difficult to survive politically.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur