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The princess who could provide a royal touch to the BJP

September 16, 2013 15:13 IST

Diya KumariThe petite princess is the newest catch of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The glamorous Rajkumari of Jaipur Diya Kumari is the third princess to join the saffron brigade. In the last election the BJP fielded Siddhi Kumari of Bikaner and Rohini Kumari of Karauli in eastern Rajasthan and both won their assembly seats in 2008

The entry of Diya Kumari into politics was well-timed as the state is heading towards assembly poll. The BJP wanted to regain its Rajput vote bank which it had lost considerably since the patriarch of the BJP in Rajasthan Bhairon Singh Shekhawat became the country's vice president and the leadership of the state fell on the shoulders of Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

The BJP skilfully used the occasion of the Narendra Modi's rally in Jaipur to launch both Diya Kumari and Olympic medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore as the youth icon of the party. While Diya is a royal, Rathore comes from commoner stock.

Diya Kumari was inspired by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje as she felt that her coming to the party fold would improve the stock of the party among the Rajputs The Congress has two princes Ijeyraj Singh of Kota and Jitendra Singh of Alwar and also a princess Chandresh Kumari of Jodhpur, who is married in Himachal Pradesh but was elected to Lok Sabha from Jodhpur. These three former royals helped the Congress a great deal in increasing the party's following in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

“I was definitely inspired by Vasundharaji who asked me to join the party. I would not like to be labelled as the representative of any community and I want to serve the community. I am joining politics to serve the people and not for any personal gains,” she said.

Diya Kumari takes Vasundhara as her role model and she particularly likes her functioning and her ideas of development. She wants to emulate her in many ways.

Five decades after her step grandmother, the late Gayatri Devi of Jaipur stepped out from the palace to contest the Lok Sabha election in 1962 now it’s the princess Diya Kumari who has announced her entry into active politics.

Gayatri Devi was elected to the Lok Sabha three times and might have continued in politics, but when she was jailed during the emergency by Indira Gandhi and she suffered at Tihar jail, so much that she decided to quit politics and opted to write A Princess Remembers, a story of her life.

Diya Kumar as a child had heard about the suffering of Gayatri Devi and vowed she would never join politics.

But after the change of heart, the only daughter of late Maharaja Brigadier Bhawani Singh and Padmini Devi is trying to attempt a different script.

In 1989, Bhawani Singh contested the Lok Sabha election from Jaipur on a Congress ticket and lost. This loss stunned the maharaja and his family. The stark truth surfaced that they as royals have lost all their charm and appeal and the world has changed and the democratic roots are stronger in people and they have no love for the ex-royals.

Three years ago when the election for mayor for the Jaipur municipal corporation was to be held and the mayoral seat was restricted to woman from the general category, Diya Kumari was asked to contest the election which involved more than eight lakh voters. But she declined the offer as she was not mentally prepared to join the Congress having seen her father lose the Lok Sabha election.

The Congress tried to pitch her as the city's mayor, a city which was built by her ancestors. The Congress thought of pitching her as the youth icon, but she did not accept the offer.

Diya Kumari is known for taking her own decisions. She stunned the royalty when she told her parents about her intention to marry Narendra Singh, a humble youth who she had met when he would come to the city palace for an audit. He was the son of the maharaja's personal staff and known for his loyalty to the maharaja.

Despite opposition from the royal family and protests by the Rajput community, Diya Kumari insisted on marrying Narendra Singh. Facing the wrath of his own community, Bhawani Singh secretly solemnised the marriage without much fanfare at his Delhi's Maharani Bagh house.

The couple started staying at the city palace as Narendra had a small house and was living with his parents and unable to provide the desired comfort for his bride.

The couple were blessed with two sons and a daughter and Narendra also started looking after the affairs of the palace and its trust. But his involvement in day to day affairs of the city palace was disliked by some of the senior staff members and they started complaining against him to maharaja

This resulted in rift and even Diya started distancing herself from her husband. One day Diya’s parents asked him to quit the palace at Diya's instance. He moved to a bungalow given by the maharaja for his parents. This was the period of turmoil for Narendra and Diya and this continued for more than two years. The children were sent to him for a few hours at an appointed place once a week.

Their separation was talk of the town and Narendra faced the humiliation at the hands of his wife and in-laws. After two years for the sake of children, Diya reconciled and Narendra was back in the city palace and now they live like a happy couple.

Both started charting out the career of their children. Bhawani Singh adopted their eldest son Padmanabh Singh as his son and he was crowned as the prince and heir apparent.

Padmanabh was ‘crowned’ the maharaja after the death of Bhawani Singh. Thus her son would be the heir to the enormous wealth and property of the Kacchawa dynasty, which runs into several crores of rupees.

Diya Kumari also saw that her second son Lakshyaraj Singh, becomes the heir apparent of the former Sirmur Nahan state in Himachal Pradesh, the former principality from where her mother Rajmata Padmini Devi comes. Padmini Devi is the daughter of the late raja of Sirmur Nahan who had no son and Padmini Devi made her maternal grandson sit on the non-existing throne of the Sirmur Nahan state, thus paving the way for inheriting the wealth of the Himalayan kingdom.

Thus Laksyaraj Singh will now own the enormous land and a personal forest which was owned once by the ruler of Sirmur. The small palace would now be owned by Lakshyaraj.

Having established two of her sons as maharaja and raja, Diya Kumari, who runs the affairs of the former ruling family of Jaipur on behalf of her minor son, now aims to find a space for herself in politics.

She is a prominent socialite of Jaipur. She is the most sought after woman for social gatherings and inaugurations. She has opened a school in the palace precincts called the Palace School and she devotes most of her time in running the school and the Sawai Man Singh Trust which runs the museum. This trust has an annual income of Rs 12 crore and she also runs the palace hotel.

Diya is the also the head of the Assocham Rajasthan unit and is trying to inspire the farmers to take up organic farming. Solar power is also in her agenda. She also runs an NGO for educating poor children.

Diya contributes a column to a prominent Hindi daily of Jaipur in which she writes about her life and how she was groomed as an ordinary child by the late maharaja.

This column is very well read particularly by women and she feels that the women of Jaipur would always side by her.

“My father was in army and in Delhi where he was posted he used to live in the army accommodation, which were not big and I lived and played with other army officers’ children. But I was groomed as a disciplined child and was never pampered and I never thought that I came from the royal stock and was a special person or child,” says Diya.

She insists that the massive failure of the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh and the Congress’ inability to understand the basic problem of the country led her to think that she should join BJP which has leaders like Narendra Modi.

“Modi is the answer for this country. In six decades the country was mostly ruled by the Congress and it failed to give the people what they deserved and desired. I have pinned a lot of hope on Modi. He has given the country the Gujarat model of development and the country needs this model. I am sure the country's destiny would change once Modi takes over as prime minister,” opined Diya.

Prakash Bhandari