JODHPUR (Rajasthan): In a battle that has at stake the prestige of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, sitting MP from Jodhpur and Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is pitted against the former’s son Vaibhav Gehlot.
A loss for his son — in his debut — in the CM’s home turf, which he has nurtured for decades, would take the sheen off Congress’ victory in the recent assembly elections.
Himself a five-time MP from Jodhpur and currently a sitting MLA from Sardarpura here, CM Gehlot is heard playing on people’s emotions to see Vaibhav through.
But the kind of effort and attention that CM Gehlot is investing in Jodhpur to ensure his son’s victory is causing discontent in the Rajasthan unit of Congress.
And this can be seen via ground-level assessment from both the Congress and BJP ‘camps’ (respectively):
Some disquiet in the cong .. most cabinet ministers of rajasthan, senior cong leaders making a beeline to campaign for gehlot’s son .. is it jeopardising chances of others ?
— pallavi ghosh (@_pallavighosh) April 24, 2019
CM and ex-CM both in Rajasthan wants to defeat one man in Jodhpur. For that one is not stepping out of Jodhpur and one is not stepping in Jodhpur. But looks like Jodhpur Janta wants to ensure that man becomes future CM. Let us see who wins. #GSS
— Chowkidaar Arvind Jain (@arvind_barmer) April 24, 2019
The latter observer can be explained thus:
For Shekhawat, who had fought and won his first election in 2014, another victory would enhance his stature within BJP and make him a direct challenger of his vocal critic, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
And to ensure that, Shekhawat is campaigning across the length of the constituency, addressing every segment of the constituency.
Jodhpur Lok Sabha constituency consists of eight assembly segments which are Phalodi, Lohawat, Shergarh, Sardapura, Jodhpur, Soorsagar, Luni, Pokaran. The constituency has a presence of Rajput community at large who are likely to play a major role in deciding the mandate in 2019.
Jodhpur constituency holds historical importance. It’s of the urban cities in Rajasthan and has a say in defining state politics.
BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is the sitting MP in Jodhpur who defeated Chandresh Kumari of the Congress by a margin of almost 4 lakh votes in 2014.
The arrival of Hanuman Beniwal into the NDA fold is an added factor in favour of the BJP candidate.
Jat leader Beniwal is a former BJP leader who was ousted from the party after his differences with former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. A sitting MLA in the Rajasthan Assembly from Nagaur, he then launched a political outfit called Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) in October 2018.
However, after the 2018 assembly election results, which led the BJP to lose the state to Congress, it recently decided to align with the RLP.
Looking at Beniwal’s cloud on the ground in some regions, BJP may encash benefit in districts like Ajmer, Pali, Barmer, and Jodhpur. The results are currently being seen on the ground:
#जोधपुर लोकसभा के #कलाउ में @BJP4India के प्रत्याशी श्री गजेंद्र सिंह जी शेखावत के समर्थन में विशाल जन सभा को संबोधित किया !@gssjodhpur @BJP4Rajasthan @PrakashJavdekar @AmitShah @narendramodi @1stIndiaNews @pantlp @babulalsharma19 pic.twitter.com/AoJUDPE6tf
— HANUMAN BENIWAL (@hanumanbeniwal) April 24, 2019
The trouble does not end there for the Congress. As per figures available through local media, the BJP candidate spent more on the day of the nomination day than what his Congress rival spent in a week after filing his nomination. It is not about money alone, which the Gehlots too would have in bagfuls, it is about the ability of a candidate to fight tooth-for-tooth against the ‘incumbent establishment’.
If the well-oiled (and well-funded) BJP machinery needed any more than ‘mere campaigning budget’, the party has the nation’s ultimate star-power to back its candidate.
PM Narendra Modi held his maiden poll rally in Rajasthan here earlier this week drawing his usual huge crowd.
“The CM is running from street to street trying to save his son,” Modi told the gathering.
Already rattled by an increasingly uphill task, Gehlot retorted with a rather below-the-belt statement: “Which father would not slog for his son? But how would Modi know? He doesn’t even have a family!”
The utterance from such a seasoned politician, most experts believe, betrayed his nervousness.
To add to that nervousness, BJP President Amit Shah is going to hold a roadshow in Jodhpur today — apart from addressing a rally in Jalore.
Amid the unprecedented attention from both the parties, the locals seem a little confused. It’s a case of Hobson’s choice for them: A majority of those interviewed by the local Rajasthan media — especially of those belonging the CM Gehlot’s Mali caste — say that they want both Narendra Modi and “our chief minister’s son” to win.
That ‘caste pride association’ with the incumbent chief minister is something that Shekhawat seems to be mindful of. Therefore, and taking a cue from the national leadership of his party, he is striving hard to make people look beyond caste considerations and look at the issue of nationalism. Remember, Rajasthan borders Pakistan and the Balakot and Wg. Cdr. Abhinandan Warthaman issues have not completely died down.
Campaigning across the length of the constituency, addressing every segment of the constituency, he sticks basically to one issue: “I want you to remember the sacrifice of our jawans.” It is an emotive issue like no other — especially for the young and the first-time voters, irrespective of their castes.
He is ably supported by the state BJP leadership in that strategy.
“The fight in Jodhpur is between Gehlot’s son Vaibhav on one side and nation’s “vaibhav” on the other,” said BJP vice-president and Rajasthan in charge Avinash Rai Khanna recently to media persons.
Shekhawat is also good at thinking on the feet: Recently, in a locality called Sursagar, a Ram Navami procession was allegedly pelted with stones when it passed through a Muslim-dominated area. He spent the rest of the night outside the police station with his supporters demanding the release of some Hindu youths picked up for questioning.
Will those ‘gestures’ help? The jury is still out on that one.
For an incident or two might not be able to counter what indeed is CM Gehlot’s personal connect with the people considering Jodhpur, his political workspace over decades.
It is a tough one to call. But there seems to be a more wide-ranging effort from the BJP. If they are able to convince the nation that “it is not about Jodhpur, it is about the nation”, then Shekhawat would definitely be returning from Jodhpur.
In any case, imagine a state’s chief minister overlooking 24 constituencies because his son is contesting from the remaining one. As stated in the beginning, there is an undercurrent of unhappiness among the Congress party about the aspect. It promises to hurt the party really bad.
Some of the party’s most ardent supporters too are saying that aloud now:
Cowards. What a Bhasmasuri party!Has no vision. No guts. Messed it up in Delhi. A very rude shock awaits them in Rajasthan as Gehlot just campaigning for his son and diverting all resources there. The regional satraps dont listen to Rahul or he doesnt have the authority. https://t.co/XSXGXmq0gU
— Abhisar Sharma (@abhisar_sharma) April 25, 2019
Fortunately, only for CM Gehlot, the party had anyway lost all the 25 seats in 2014. It can’t do much worse than that, can it?
Rajasthan has a total of 25 parliamentary seats which will go to polls in two phases. Here is the seat-wise break-up in which phase, the election will be held in Rajasthan constituencies.
13 out of 25 Rajasthan constituencies will go to polls in Lok Sabha election 4th phase, April 29:
Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Pali, Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore, Udaipur, Banswara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Kota, Jhalawar-Baran.
Remaining 12 Rajasthan constituencies will go to polls in Lok Sabha election 5th phase, May 06:
Ganganagar, Bikaner, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Sikar, Jaipur Rural, Jaipur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur, Dausa, Nagaur
BJP’s Partners in Rajasthan: One
The BJP is contesting polls in alliance with Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which had won Khinvsar, Merta and Bhopalgarh seats in 2018 Rajasthan Assembly elections.
Congress’ Partners in Rajasthan: None
Unlike its alliance with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) in the 2018 Assembly Elections, the Congress is going alone on all the 25 seats in this election.