RAJASTHAN: MAKING ROOM FOR VASUNDHARA’S SON
By Rangoli Agarwal and Ram Gopal Jat
Chief minister Vasundhra Raje Scindia’s decision to contest for the fourth consecutive time from Jhalarpatan immediately led to speculation that she was grooming her son Dushyant Singh to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Laslot constituency. At a recent public meeting, voters of Laslot, the assembly seat earlier held by BJP turncoat Kishori Lal Meena who recently returned to the party and is now a Rajya Sabha MP, appealed in vain to Raje to contest from there. Dushyant, a two-time MP from Jhalawar, could not get a ministerial berth which has not gone down well with the Scindia camp. Especially as three other Rajasthan MPs, P.P. Chaudhary from Pali, Arjun Ram Meghwal from Bikaner and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from Jodhpur became ministers.
BJP rebels were quick to hit out at Vasundhra Raje over her decision. Ghanshyam Tiwari, who quit the BJP to form his own outfit, dubs Vasundhara Raje an “outsider, who is bent upon promoting her son’s political career”. Independent MLA Hanuman Beniwal, also a former BJP man who formed the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and is causing serious problems for both BJP and Congress, said that an insecure Vasundhara would never dare change her constituency. While Congress leader Sachin Pilot chipped in saying “the chief minister would get the real taste of electoral politics if she takes up the challenge of shifting to some other constituency”.
The contestants in Jhalarpatan are an interesting lot. Raje’s main opponent is former BJP leader Jaswant’s Singh’s son Manavendra Singh who was a surprise Congress choice. IPS officer Pankaj Chaudhary’s wife Mukul Chaudhary was angling for the Congress ticket but is now in the fray as an independent, and is likely to cut more into Congress votes than that of the BJP, making Vasundhara Raje the favourite. Incidentally, Jhalarpatan is part of her son’s Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat, which is probably why Vasundhara Raje refused to budge despite the BJP leadership wanting her to change her constituency.
Vasundhara Raje scotched all speculation of alternate constituencies like Laslot and Dholpur and a double contest from Laslot and Jhalarpatna by quickly filing her nomination papers for the latter. She also sprang a surprise by nominating Kirori Lal Meena’s wife and former MLA Golma Devi Meena from Laslot. Subsequently, the BJP claimed that there was never any speculation about Raje's constituency. "Some party workers were demanding that Vasundhara Raje contest from Laslot or nearby constituencies,” said BJP state president Madanlal Saini. “This demand was rejected during the first meeting itself.”
“Vasundhara Raje couldn’t fight from Lalsot because it is a reserved seat,” added political analyst Sanjay Bohra. “She was expected to fight from Dholpur. However, it was speculated that if she leaves Jhalarapatan, it will appear that she has lost control over Jhalawar. Moreover, the BJP high command had made it clear that no one will be allowed to change seats.” No doubt Raje contesting from Laslot would have been a boost for the party in eastern Rajasthan.
Besides Jhalarapatan, Jhalawar district consists of Khanpur, Manohar Thana and Dag assembly constituencies, the last two being reserved seats. Long associated with the Gwalior family, the district has a large Rajput population even in the reserved constituencies, with Jats having little or no presence. Since Dushyant Singh has never been considered close to his Jat father Hemant Singh, he is seen more a Rajput than Jat. Which makes him a shoo in for the BJP ticket in 2019 from Jhalawar and the favourite if Vasundhara Raje retains Jhalarapatan. A view echoed by Madanlal Saini who said "there is no chance of changing Dushyant.”
An interesting sidelight----only two politicians, Vasundhara Raje and Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, have never changed their constituency. Though Vasundhara Raje’s electoral record beats Gehlot’s hollow. She won three consecutive Assembly elections in 2003, 2008 and 2013. Besides being a Lok Sabha MP for five terms from 1989 to 2003. Interestingly, Rajasthan in recent times, has a record of defeating incumbent chief ministers-----Ashok Gehlot replaced Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, then Gehlot was toppled by Vasundhara Raje, who then lost to Gehlot till she evened the score in 2013.
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