IANS

‘Outsiders’ take over Tonk & Jhalrapatan in Rajasthan

By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, Dec 3 (IANS) Amid rage and rancour over Rajasthan polls, due December 7, two seats — Tonk to the east and Jhalrapatan in the south — out of the total 200 represent a unique battle: the ‘outsiders’ have locked horns.

In Tonk — the erstwhile city of nawabs — Congress’ state chief Sachin Pilot takes on BJP’s Yunus Khan. And both come from outside the constituency. Pilot is from neighbouring Ajmer while Khan belongs to Deedwana (Nagaur). Also, the Congress has fielded a Hindu candidate after 46 years in the town, whereas BJP has brought a Muslim candidate after 38 years. The small town has no industries, rail route or airport.

In Jhalrapatan, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is contesting for a fourth consecutive time, winning it since 2003. And Congress has fielded rebel BJP stalwart Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh against her.

Soon after Congress decided to field Pilot from Tonk, the BJP in its last-minute decision, removed its candidate Ajeet Singh, an incumbent legislator from Tonk, and declared Khan as its official candidate.

Pilot speaking to IANS confirmed that Congress during previous elections had performed poorly in eastern Rajasthan. “As Tonk lies between Dausa and Ajmer, the party wanted to have an anchor presence there so that nearby seats can get a mileage. So, I was asked to contest from here,” said Pilot.

Khan, too, says he was brought to Tonk following party’s directions. “People are looking for development and that is what our party promises,” he said.

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, convenor of the state BJP election management committee, says Khan is the party’s trump card. Khan and his supporters in Deedwana were disappointed when the first two party lists didn’t carry his name. The final list declared him the contender for the seat, and he accepted the offer as a party loyalist.

Around 250km from Tonk, in Jhalrapatan, Singh is confident that Jhalawar would be free from Raje’s rule. “I am here to fight and win,” he says, adding that this is a “battle against vindictiveness and humiliation collected over the years.”

Singh, a sitting MLA from Sheo (Barmer), recently left the BJP to join the Congress.

Raje calls him a parachute candidate, but quick comes Singh’s repartee: he was a paratrooper in the Army, not in politics.

A senior BJP leader speaking to IANS credits Pilot for Congress’ masterstroke on Singh. “He has sent our ‘bhaisahab’ (Manvendra Singh) to Jhalrapatan against Raje. None of us ever thought of this,” he said.

“When they played their masterstroke, we too came out with our trump card (Yunus Khan),” quipped the BJP leader.

Pilot says Jhalrapatan has always had interesting elections. “In 2003, my mother Rama Pilot contested from the seat against Raje, but lost. I learnt a lot from that. Basically, elections are elections: if they (BJP) leave nothing to chance, we too are here to win,” he says with a smile.

(Archana Sharma can be contacted at arachana.g@gmail.com)

–IANS
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