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BJP comes under Pressure in Rajasthan, May lose Chief Minister’s home-base

Congress move to lock down Rani CM, fielding recent entrant, Manvendra Singh, will damage her in the seat plus send a state-wide signal to Rajputs

In the forthcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, with its second list of candidates emerging, the Congress has made a few deft moves that are set to change the headlines.

Taking the challenge of “too many CM candidates” by the horns, the party has given tickets to both, PCC Chief Sachin Pilot and the organisation Secretary Ashok Gehlot, determined to play to its strength and take full advantage of what each of them brings to the table.

But it is the Congress’ determination to take the fight right into the lion’s den that has raised the stakes. Pitting veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son, Manvendra Singh against the “Rani” herself in her pocket-borough Jhalrapatan is an audacious move and set to have ramifications way beyond the seat of the Hindi belt where this seat is located. The decision to field Manvendra was announced hours after the Rani filed her nomination.

Manvendra Singh, the soft-spoken journalist-turned-politician is an MLA from Sheo, in Barmer district, from where his once Foreign and Defence Minister father was an MP.

Emerging as a major Rajput challenger in this seat, this will be anything but a cake-walk for the already besieged Chief Minister of Rajasthan. The BJP has already lost all (three) MP bypolls held this year, in a state where the BJP in 2014 had bagged all 25 seats.

In the last assembly elections too, it was Rajasthan, which swept BJP to power with 163 out of 200, which was a trailer for the massive victory in 2014. This times, tables could turn with the ‘Rani’ Chief Minister being under pressure and getting locked down in her constituency.

There are reasons for this:

  1. The arithmetic could make it difficult for the already unpopular Vasundhara Raje to scrape through. She has won from 2003 onwards, but with 50,000 Muslims, 35,000 Dalits, 20,000 Dakars and 20,000 ‘other communities, Manavendra would be breaking into the 20,000 Rajput votes right down the middle. It may be recalled that Rajputs were very angry in the state after Jaswant Singh had been marginalised and not given the BJP ticket in 2014. He had then fought as an independent and lost. On September 22 when his son Manavendra left the BJP, he cited ‘Rajput pride’ as an important reason. So, for the Rajput voters here, this would be a good time for them to try and correct that wrong.
  2. It is a big prestige battle for the dynast queen, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, daughter of the Jana Sangh leading leader/founder, Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia. This is among the many dynasties in the BJP and it is vital for her to retain her own seat as he unpopularity now could shut the door on her own son, Dushyant Singh’s shaky fortunes.
  3. BJP’s top leadership, Modi and Shah, have never hidden their antagonism for the Rani CM but her getting tied down in her seat and losing badly would dent their image badly, as this is the region where in 2014 they had ruled the roost. In 2013, Raje had won Jhalrapatan by 60,896 votes last time. This time, fortunes may be reversed and it will show up in the Modi-Shah duo’s account, despite their best efforts.
  4. A loss in the state will impact on how the state votes in 2019, as deft management here will make it hard for BJP to even be within sniffing distance of the halfway mark, and shatter the myth that they have the Hindi heartland stitched up.

Rajasthan votes on December 7 and the results will be known on December 11.

Also read: Rajasthan Polls: Congress Fields Former BJP Leader Manvendra Singh Against Vasundhara Raje

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