In Closely-Matched Rajasthan Contest, Why Pendulum May Swing Towards Congress in Phase 4
Of the 13 seats where voting will take place, four - Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore and Udaipur – are where key battles will take place.
File photo of Ashok Gehlot (left) and Sachin Pilot. (PTI)
Even before the Assembly elections, billed as the semi-final, were held in Rajasthan in December last year, Congress was seen as having the edge for Lok Sabha election after being blanked out five years ago.
Now that three phases of the election are over, the BJP seems to be banking entirely on Modi charisma as it wrestles to take back the initiative and acquire as many seats as possible. The contest, even-matched, will be decided by fine margins.
Heading into the fourth phase, in which polling would be held on 13 of the state’s 25 states, the momentum seems to have shifted towards the grand old party. Of the 13 seats where voting will take place, four - Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore and Udaipur – are where key battles will take place.
News18 gives you a lowdown on the four seats to watch out for on Monday:
Barmer Lok Sabha constituency consists of eight Assembly segments: Jaisalmer, Sheo, Barmer, Baytoo, Pachpadra, Siwana, Gudha Malani and Chohtan (SC). Except for Siwana, Congress won on all the other Assembly seats in 2018.
The constituency will witness a fight between BJP’s Kailash Choudhary and Congress’s Manvendra Singh, who is the son of former BJP stalwart, Jaswant Singh. On being denied a ticket by the BJP, Jaswant Singh had contested in 2014 as an independent candidate. He lost by over 87,000 votes to BJP’s Col. Sona Ram Choudhry.
Interestingly, Sona Ram was a three-time Congress MP (1996-2004), while Manvendra Singh was a BJP MP (2004-2009) from the same seat.
When the former BJP MLA from Sheo, Manvendra Singh, switched over to Congress ahead of Rajasthan Assembly elections in 2018, he tapped into the influential Rajput community’s dissatisfaction with the Vasundhara Raje-led government in the state. The treatment meted out to his father, a former Union Minister and prominent Rajpur leader, in last Lok Sabha polls, coupled with the encounter of Anandpal, a Robin Hood figure in the Rajput community, and the entire ‘Padmavat’ controversy, pushed Rajputs — traditionally BJP supporters — toward Congress.
With Raje out of the picture for the Lok Sabha elections, the community is expected to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Manvendra Singh’s support in Barmer remains strong. Additionally, with the BJP wooing Jats in the state by backing Hanuman Beniwal, Rajputs are likely to swing the other way; the two communities are considered rivals and have historically voted in contrast. BJP has also replaced their Barmer MP Sonaram Chaudhary with former Baytoo MLA Kailash Chaudhary. With a prominent candidate in the mix, Barmer remains one of few seats Congress is confident of landing in Rajasthan.
However, it remains to be seen how the Balakot airstrikes factor impacts voting in the region. Barmer shares a border with Pakistan in the West and Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s banners have been seen in Kailash Chaudhary’s rallies. Despite Election Commission’s notice, the politicisation of Balakot airstrikes in PM Modi’s rally in the region and in BJP promotional materials could affect the mood.
Just South of Barmer, Jalore seat has elected an outsider as their Parliamentarian, a record 11 times — highest in the state. However, Devji Mansinghram Patel, a local, has been elected to Parliament from Jalore twice, in 2009 and 2014, and is in the fray for a third term. He is up against Congress candidate Ratan Devasi.
BJP president Amit Shah, in his recent rally in Jalore, amped up the ‘strong government’ and said this election was against terrorists and for the national security. And despite Congress’ recent win in state polls, the saffron party had managed to win six out of total eight Assembly constituencies in the seat.
However, Jalore is slipping from BJP’s kitty, locals believe. The seat bordered by Barmer and Jodhpur, both of which are heavily tilted in Congress’ favour. The mood from its neighbouring constituencies is likely to seep into Jalore as well.
Jalore includes eight Assembly constituencies: Ahore, Jalore, Bhinmal, Sanchore, Raniwara, Sirohi, Pindwara Abu and Reodar. BJP has ruled in this constituency for three consecutive terms from 2004. Despite Congress sweeping away a majority in the 2018 state Assembly polls, except for Sanchore and Sirohi, all the other six seats were conquered by BJP. Sirohi was won by an independent candidate, Sanyam Lodha.
The sitting and twice BJP MP Devaji Patel is seeking re-election. Patel had won from each of these constituencies in the 2014 polls resulting in a collective vote margin of over 3.8 lakh votes.
Congress has fielded Ratan Devasi, former MLA from Raniwara (2008), who has twice lost to BJP’s Narayan Singh Dewal in 2013 and 2018 Assembly polls. The vote margin was over 32,000 in 2013. It got reduced to about 3,400 votes in 2018, nearly 10 per cent of the previous gap.
Jodhpur could be another centre of attention in the 17th Lok Sabha polls as the constituency is home to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and is considered the Congress veteran’s stronghold. This time, Gehlot’s son Vaibhav, who has been involved with youth Congress for long, is making his electoral debut against incumbent MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Shekhawat had won the seat by a whopping 66.15% vote share defeating sitting MP from Congress, Chandresh Kumari, by over 41,000 votes.
Despite Shekhawat being a tall leader compared to the inexperienced Vaibhav, Congress is expecting Jodhpur’s support. The seat has a sizable population of Scheduled Castes and minorities, and locals say SCs and minorities were silently unifying against BJP in the state. The region also has a high concentration of the Mali community, which will heavily favour Gehlot, who belongs to the same community.
And since Jodhpur is home to Gehlot, the region also expects the leader to work for local issues once elected to power.
The blue city’s parliamentary segment has eight Assembly seats: Sardarpura, Soorsagar, Jodhpur City, Phalodi, Lohawat, Shergah, Luni and Pokaran. Except for Soorsagar and Phalodi, all seats were acquired by Congress in the 2018 polls. Gehlot had won Sardarpura in 2018 by a vote margin of 45,597 votes.
A reserved Scheduled Tribe seat - Udaipur - is a tribal-dominated one. Udaipur division, which forms a large part of Mewar-Vagad, had helped BJP save face in state polls in December. Despite anti-incumbency against Raje government, the southern region of the state voted in BJP’s favour. The introduction of Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) that won two Assembly seats in the region - Sagwara and Chorasi - also absorbed Congress’ vote share.
In Udaipur, cousins Arjunlal Meena, BJP’s sitting MP, and Raghuveer Meena, the Congress candidate, are up against each other for a second time. BJP retains the upper hand in the region, locals say, but Congress’ appeal to Meenas, who have traditionally supported the grand old party, by giving Lok Sabha tickets to four Meena leaders, might help sway the sentiments. In 2014, Arjunlal had defeated Raghuveer by 236,762 (19.84%) votes.
Also, interestingly, Udaipur seat has not elected a parliamentarian from the same party it voted for in previous Lok Sabha elections since 1996. The seat has been alternating between Congress and BJP candidates for 23 years. It remains to be seen if the constituency breaks its own pattern.
The eight Assembly constituencies of the lake city seat comprise of -Gogunda, Jhadol, Kherwara, Udaipur Rural, Udaipur, Salumber, Dhariyawad and Aspur. Except for Kherwara, all other assemblies were won by the BJP in the recent state polls.
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