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|November 23, 1998||
CM aspirant changes poll scene in Bhopalgarh
The return of the leader of the Opposition, Paras Ram Maderna -- a key contender for the chief ministership if the Congress comes to power in Rajasthan -- to Bhopalgarh has changed the poll scenario in the Jat-dominated constituency in Jodhpur district.
The BJP's campaign in this constituency was kicked off by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on October 3, indicating the significance attached to the constituency.
The BJP has fielded a new face, Bhera Ram, to take on the veteran leader, who is seeking his ninth win from the constituency. Maderna who has represented Bhopalgarh since the constituency came into being in 1967, returns after a gap of five years. In the last assembly election he had contested from Gudamalani.
The other candidates in the fray are Bahujan Samaj Party nominee Manna Ram and two Independents.
Maderna, who was also leader of the Opposition in the assembly from 1977 to 1980, was state party president during 1989 to 1994. The constituency, situated about 30 kilometres from Jodhpur, has about 115,000 voters, with Jats constituting about 55,000 followed by Bishnois and Malis (20,000 each).
Lila Maderna, the Congress candidate's campaign manager and sister-in-law, said that the price of essential commodities and the BJP government's ''failure'' in solving problems of rural people were the main issues highlighted by the party.
The ruling BJP has maintained the tempo of its campaign after Vajpayee's visit. Senior party leader and sitting Rajya Sabha member Omkar Singh Lakhawat is coordinating the party's campaign in the constituency.
The BJP is highlighting the achievements of the Shekhawat government on the development front. It holds the previous Congress governments responsible for the present price rise and the state's backwardness.
Maderna, who underwent bypass surgery some time ago, has been spearheading his campaign mainly from his Jodhpur home and depends on his son and Jodhpur zilla pramukh Mahipal Maderna and Lila Maderna.
However he is not taking any chances in the face of the aggressive campaigning by the BJP. He has already addressed several election meetings in his own constituency and neighbouring areas along with state party president Ashok Gehlot.
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