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Royals face the poll heat in Rajasthan

April 16, 2014 10:42 IST

Royals face the poll heat in Rajasthan

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P B Chandra

Three out of the four royal scions who are contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Rajasthan will face a tough challenge. P B Chandra profiles the regal candidates.

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections will witness three princes and a princess in the fray in Rajasthan. All of these royals are sitting MPs from their respective parties. Barring Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's son Dushyant Singh of Bharatiya Janata Party, all the other three -- Ijyaraj Singh (Kota), Jitendra Singh (Alwar) and Chandresh Kumari (Jodhpur) are from the Congress.

Chandresh Kumari Katoch, 69, is the most experienced of them all having been a minister in Himachal Pradesh and a member of both the Houses of Parliament from there.

Jitendra Singh is the Union minister of state for sports, youth affairs and defence.

Dushyant Singh is already a second time MP and except him, all others are finding the going tough in their respective constituencies following the Congress’s poor show in the recent assembly elections in Rajasthan.

Although the merger of princely states to the Indian Union after Independence saw the abolition of princes in the Republic of India, the royal scions continue to enjoy their clout even in the democratic setup following victories in elections.

After the formation of the state of Rajasthan, the princes, particularly the ruler of Jodhpur, formed the Ram Rajya Parishad and fielded their own candidates who stood in the first ever Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections.

But Maharaja of Bikaner Dr Karni Singh did not join the Parishad and contested as an Independent and was elected to Lok Sabha on five consecutive times. After a long lull, it was late Gayatri Devi who stirred the hornets by forming the Swatantra Party after the Ram Rajya Parishad became defunct and garnered support from the erstwhile royals and their nobles. Gayatri Devi’s party broke the monopoly of the Congress and for about 15 years it was a force to reckon with. But the party ultimately lost its sheen because of lack of mass participation and its elite image.

Former royals in Rajasthan, meanwhile, seem to have made a place for themselves in the political set up of the state. The phenomenal rise of Vasundhara Raje -- the scion of the Gwalior royals from Madhya Pradesh who was married into the princely family of Dholpur in Rajasthan -- in the BJP was a turning point in terms of ex-royals' role in state politics.

She led the BJP to its first-ever absolute majority in the assembly in 2003, and was the first chief minister with an ex-royal background.

With the Congress losing the strong anti-feudal stance it displayed during the initial decades after Independence, the scions of former princely families have continued to join the party.

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Image: A view of the Meharangarh Fort is seen at the historic town of Jodhpur
Photographs: Reuters

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Jodhpur royal faces tough competition from commoner

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Chandresh Kumari Katoch, the sister of former ruler of Jodhpur Gaj Singh, is married to Aditya Singh of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. Kumari, the Union minister for culture, was strategically brought back to her “peehar” by former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in 2009 after dabbling in the Himalayan state’s politics. Gehlot himself represented the Jodhpur seat on five occasions.

The fielding of Chandresh Kumari and projecting her “as Jodhpur’s own beti” gave rich dividends and she won. But poor performance and inaccessibility to the people earned her a lot of negative points. She is unwillingly pitted against a commoner Rajput Gajendra Singh from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh background and the BJP candidate is giving a fright to the royal daughter.

“I have been in Himachal Pradesh politics and it was Gehlot who brought me to Jodhpur during his second stint as chief minister and lent me all support to win the seat,” admits Chandresh Kumari.

But the Union minister has earned the wrath of the people as after the election she was not seen much in Jodhpur. She was either in Himachal or in Delhi.

“Jodhpur was served by a person like Ashok Gehlot, who was also a Union minister, but he served the constituency like nobody did before him. He is credited for the gauge conversion of the railways, developing Jodhpur as a handicraft hub, making Jodhpur an educational hub. Thus Chandresh Kumari was also expected to do something for the second largest city of the state. But she is unable to tell people what she did for the city and with what face she has come to seek vote again,” says Mani Ram Jangid, a timber dealer.

“I do not know why people are trying to equate me like an MLA. I was not MLA, but an MP, and I had to attend the Parliament in Delhi and as a Union minister I had to look after my department. The BJP has initiated a campaign against me and is blaming me for neglecting my constituency. I have been able to get the civil airport for Jodhpur. I was the person who saw to it that the AIIMS started its operations in the city. I got the entire central plan for the development of handicrafts. There are many things that I did which are in pipeline and the people would reap benefits of the same soon,” defends Chandresh Kumari.

There are reasons to compare her with Gehlot. The former chief minister would come to Jodhpur every week and hold meetings with the common people and enquire about their grievances which was missing during Chandresh's tenure.

“We have record of her visits to Jodhpur. In all she was in the city for 18 days and this included the days when her nephew Shivraj Singh's wedding took place,” says Nirmal Panwar, a BJP activist.

However, Chandresh Kumari is finding the going tough against Gajendra Singh in this Rajput vs Rajput contest.

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Image: Chandresh Kumari Katoch
Photographs: Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

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Kota's Ijyaraj Singh has an edge

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Congress MP Ijyaraj Singh, the scion of the Kota royal family, is being opposed by popular third time BJP MLA Om Birla in Kota which has eight assembly segments including two urban segments.

Ijyaraj’s father Brijraj Singh was three times MP from Jhalawar, winning both from the Congress and the Jan Sangh.

Experts feel Ijyaraj Singh has an edge over Birla in rural segments, but he finds that the people of Kota’s two urban assembly segments are backing the BJP nominee. Thus the going would be tough for Ijyaraj.

“The people should realise that Kota's landscape changed in the past five years with new roads, high mast lights, improved drinking water system and drainage and new housing projects. All this came during the Congress regime and Rs 2,000 crore was spent on the development of the city in five years,” Ijyaraj Singh notes.

But his claims are countered by the some members of the Congress itself who give credit to the former urban development minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal for Kota’s development.

"Ijyaraj Singh is trying to take credit for the work which Dhariwal did for the city. There are numerous central assistance projects that Ijyaraj could have brought for the constituency. Look at the slow pace of development in the rural assembly segments. In Congress there is a feeling that Shanti Dhariwal would have been a stronger candidate than Ijyeraj Singh,” says Yogendra Kachholiya, a business man.

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Image: Ijyaraj Singh addressing supporters at a rally
Photographs: Courtesy: Facebook

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Vashundhara's son likely to retain Jhalawar

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In neighbouring Jhalawar-Baran, Vasundhara Raje’s only son Dushyant Singh, the scion of the Dholpur royal family, is a two time sitting BJP MP. This seat was earlier represented by his mother for five times.

Dushyant Singh did a lot of development work when Vasundhara was the chief minister between 2003 to 2008, and ever since she has regained the post, the hopes from Dushyant have increased.

"It’s fashionable to ask an MP what he did for the constituency. During my time the new collector building came up which is admired as an architectural marvel. The engineering and the medical colleges also came up during my tenure. I tried to improve the health care system and also the roads. The agriculture output increased, the problems of the opium growers were solved. On agriculture I’ve tried to improve the fruit production and today Jhalawar has become a major centre for orange farming after Nagpur,” claims Dushyant Singh.

His opponent is Congress’ Pramod Jain who was the public works department minister in the erstwhile Gehlot government.

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Image: Vasundhara Raje visiting Jhalawar with her MP son Dushyant Singh
Photographs: Courtesy: dushyantsingh.in

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Alwar's Jitendra Singh losing ground

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Meanwhile, Jitendra Singh, the Union minister of sports and youth affairs, is trying to retain his Alwar seat. The scion of the Alwar royal family is opposed by a priest Mahant Chandnath of BJP and is finding the going very tough.

“I did my bit as an MP. But as most of the MLAs in my constituency were from the BJP they projected me in a negative way. I nursed my constituency to the best of my capacity,” says Jitendra Singh.

Braving all odds, Singh managed to get the votes during the last elections with hardly any support from his own Rajput community which are not high in numbers in Alwar. He managed to garner the support of Yadavs, Gujjars, Meo Muslims, SCs and STs. But this time the Meo Muslims are against Congress because of a firing incident on the community people during the Gehlot rule in which six people died.

The princess of Jaipur, Diya Kumari, who is BJP’s MLA from Sawaimadhopur, wanted to contest from Jaipur but she could not. She is actively campaigning against Congress’s Mohammed Azharuddin in the Tonk-Sawaimadhopur constituency.


Image: Jitendra Singh gestures while campaigning in Alwar
Photographs: Courtesy: Facebook

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