Jhalrapatan, November 20
“Jhalawar ki dhara pukar rahi Vasundhara,” says a hoarding on the outskirts of Jhalrapatan, a small town in Jhalawar which at first glance doesn’t come across as a segment of a two-time former Chief Minister due to its resemblance with several other non-descript towns that dot the desert state.
However, it is the overriding sentiment of respect for the region’s former queen Vasundhara Raje, which towers over the ordinariness of the place.
And this one factor has powered her four MLA election wins from the area.
Raje married into the royal family of Dholpur, and first got elected to the Assembly from Jhalrapatan in 2003. Since then she has never lost.
Kishorilal Yadav, a 70-year-old businessman, has seen it all. He says the former CM has built a hospital, a medical college and a bridge over the Kalisindh river in her previous tenures. Yadav, however, laments that Jhalrapatan, home to the famous Jhalawar fort and the 11th century Sun temple, has failed to emerge as a tourist hot spot in a culturally and historically rich Rajasthan.
A local politician, who refused to be identified, says the dominant sentiment in the seat was one of anguish over Raje’s prestige being undermined by the BJP’s central leadership which sidelined her in the run-up to the elections.
Some of the former CM’s loyalists were denied ticket. Raje was also not in the forefront of BJP’s campaign, the leader says, adding only as November 25, the election day, draws near, the former CM’s face along with that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has started getting displayed on hoardings across the state.
“Even the BJP knows they can ignore her only at their own peril,” says a political analyst. Locals in Jhalrapatan echo the sentiment.
Mohammad Zahoor, a fruit seller, says people ensure Raje wins but the BJP might have to pay the price of undermining her.
“Madam will win from here, but the Congress will form the government in Rajasthan,” Zahoor says, with the BJP seeking to dislodge the ruling Congress.
Another reason why people believe Raje will win is the absence of Ramlal Chauhan, Congress candidate, from the field. “He is nowhere to be seen,” says a shopkeeper Ramesh Porwal.
In 2018, Raje had won the seat against Manvendra Singh, the son of former Union Minister Jaswant Singh by over 35,000 votes.
In 2013, she won by her highest margin ever of 61,000 votes in the segment and in 2008 by 32,000 votes.
In a constituency with almost 2.75 lakh voters, Raje never fell below 40 per cent vote share across poll cycles.
However, despite her popularity, she has had to hold rallies this season quite often — a sign that the she is in no mood to squander her ground connection no matter how much intra-BJP challenge she faces.
A sweet win in the seat is necessary for Raje to consolidate her position in the Rajasthan BJP.
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