The Fierce Battle In Rajasthan
The battle lines have been drawn and the electors of the state will witness a fierce battle among the ruling Congress, the BJP and the third front, which is headed by the Independent MP from Dausa Dr Kirori Lal Meena, whose party Rashtriya Janata Party is hell-bent on making a dent on both the Congress and the BJP.
In the 2008 elections, the score for the Congress was 98 and the BJP secured 79 seats resulting into a hung Assembly and the Congress managed to form the government with the support of the Independents and later with all the six BSP MLAs joining Congress the Gehlot government could breath comfortably. The BSP MLAs were rehabilitated and barring the minister of state Dr Raj Kumar Sharma all were given the party tickets. Both the ruling Congress and the BJP played safe and the disbursement of tickets was done with utmost caution. However, it was the Congress which played with far more caution and studied the caste effect carefully before finalising the list.
A RAJPUT AGAINST GEHLOT
The BJP chose to field a Rajput against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in the Sardarpura constituency of Jodhpur. The party has fielded Shambhu Singh Khetasar who is a controversial person and was involved in large-scale selling of land in the border districts of Barmer and Jaisalmer to Delhi based companies in which he brokered the deal. The land deal was worth several hundred crores and the company bought the land to sell it to the companies who would put up solar power plants in the state.
Gehlot is not liked by the Rajputs as they think that a humble person from the Mali community which are categorised as “OBC” was given too much importance and he became the Chief Minister. This feudal ideology harmed Gehlot very much in electoral politics. Yet, he could manage to survive because of the large scale support of the other communities, particularly his own—Mali and the Muslims.
However, being dubbed anti-Jat because of his stance against the Jats and his opposition to give the Jat community the category of OBC, he lost the support of both Jat and the Bishnoi community. In Sardarpura, the numbers of Jats and Bishnois are less and those who live in the area are of urban class who think differently, but are opposed to Gehlot.
Sardarpura has been a Congress bastion and Gehlot had won the seat twice. Prior to him the seat belonged to Man Singh Deora, who was elected in 1998 on the Congress ticket and vacated the seat to enable Gehlot contest the seat in the by-election in 1999. But the Rajputs are in very large numbers and in a constituency which has total of 2,00,790 electors, the numbers of Rajputs are about 35,000.In 2003, the BJP fielded Mahendra Jhabak, a Jain who was backed by the former ruler Gaj Singh of Jodhpur, yet Gehlot won by over 18,000 votes.
In 2008 elections, the BJP fielded a Mali like Gehlot and in this Gehlot vs Gehlot battle, the Chief Minister won by a margin of 15,000. Now for the first time a Rajput candidate is contesting from Sardarpura, but it seems with the overwhelming support of the Muslims, Malis and the Scheduled Caste, Gehlot would scrape through. (PB)
In the 2008 elections, the BJP fumbled and dropped as many as 32 sitting MLAs. The dropping of the 32 sitting MLAs was for reasons of delimitations and non-performance. The delimitation came into force and the change in geography of the various constituencies also changed the caste factors. In all, there were 54 seats in which because of lack of experience and understanding of the caste and local factors Vasundhara lost the 54 seats that she had won in 2003.
But learning by experience she did not opt for any large-scale change of the candidates and as she was given a free hand in selecting the candidates, she played her card with all the honesty. However, she had some personal reservations about certain sitting MLAs and she denied tickets to them. The most notable was Anil Jain, the sitting MLA from Khanpur which is in the Jhalawar district, the home district of Vasundhara. Similarly Manik Chand Surana, the veteran who was a minister in her cabinet was denied ticket from Lunkaransar in Bikaner district. Like Jain Surana is also a Jain. The Jains got annoyed with the denial of tickets to the Jains. The Jains are one per cent of the total population of the state, but are very a powerful lobby and are moneyed people. The Jains are traditionally BJP backers.
Vasundhara relied heavily on party loyalists and this time she has given more than 43 seats to those who lost the last election. In this list are 10 persons who lost by more than 10,000 votes. A former minister Prof Sanwar Lal Jat, who lost by a mere 71 votes was given the ticket. The list includes six candidates who did not contest the 2008 elections and were found fit to be fielded.
The BJP has fielded more than 40 new faces. The party had conducted survey and the selection of candidates was done on the basis of the survey. But the survey report did not serve as the rule book and the party considered many other things like capability of the candidates, networking, caste and current popularity.
The party recalled and given tickets to such part cadres who contested as Independents, when they were denied tickets. But denial of ticket also caused heartburns when the sitting party MLA from Kathumar, Babu Lal Bairwa was denied ticket. He now joined the Dr Kirori Meena’s party.
Three royals are in fray in the election this time. The Maharani of Karauli Rohini Kumari is contesting on the BJP ticket. She is a Jadaun Rajput and is a sitting MLA and is likely to face a Gujjar candidate from the Congress.
Princess Siddhi Kumari is contesting from Bikaner and as BJP candidate in 2008 the 40-year-old maiden and a post graduate and scion of the Bikaner family whose grandfather late Dr Karani Singh was five time Independent member of Lok Sabha. She is likely to be a comfortable winner again.
But another Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, is not very comfortable at Sawaimadhopur where she is contesting in a constituency which is going to be triangular fight. There are fewer Rajput votes in the constituency and the Congress has fielded Danish Abrar, son of the late Union Minister Dr Abrar Ahmed who was a Rajya Sabha member and was killed in a road accident. Dr Abrar’s wife Yasmin was also a member from Sawaimadhopur. In this, Diya Kumari will find the going tough as the RJP will field its own Meena candidate from this general seat thus leaving little space for Diya Kumari.
Vasundhara Raje during her Suraaj Sankalp Yatra studied the various constituencies and also saw all those who were active and worked hard for the success of the Yatra. The success of her Yatra gave new confidence to the party’s central leadership that gave her all the powers to select the candidates. Yet, Vasundhara did not act in an authoritarian way and knowing it well that the Congress would give the BJP fright, chose the candidates with the suggestion of all those who matter. Even her known detractor and the leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria was given the right to select his own candidates and later the party put the seal of approval after discussion in the panel meetings. Even those who were vocal against her were given tickets.
Narpat Singh Razvi a former minister and son-in-law of the late BJP patriarch Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, who last time barely managed to win the Vidyadhar Nagar seat of Jaipur, largely because of the personal appeal made by late Shekhawat was asked to contest from the same seat although he wanted to contest from Chittorgarh. This showed her dexterity.
The Rajputs because of late Shekhawat sided with the BJP and Vasundhara pleased a large number of Rajputs by giving them tickets and so was the case of the loyalists of the RSS. Thus despite opposition, the party’s general secretary Satish Poonia and former minister Vasudeo Devnani were given nominations. Rebellion and annoyance from all those who were denied tickets is nothing new in politics and the BJP also faced it.
By PB Chandra from Jaipur