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Shekhawat's nephew takes on BJP in Jaipur

Priti Patnaik in Jaipur | May 04, 2004 00:05 IST

A 77-year-old BJP five-timer Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (set to make a record if he wins again this time), up against a colourful 35-year-old Congressman, pro-sati, the nephew of staunch anti-Congress leader and Vice-President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

That's the story of the Jaipur Lok Sabha constituency, which is being contested by the venerable Girdharilal Bhargava of the BJP and Pratap Singh Khachariyawas of the Congress.

The political barometer in the Jaipur constituency has been fluctuating as much as Khachariyawas has been jumping parties. Till yesterday he was the blue-eyed boy of Vasundhara Raje Scindia, heading the youth wing of the BJP.

In 1987 when the Roop Kanwar Sati incident took place, Khachariyawas was charged with glorifying Sati. He was acquitted in the case by a special court, only in January this year. By contrast, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat took on the entire Rajput community by condemning the incident.

BJP candidate, Girdhari Lal has a catchy slogan to his name: 'Jiska koi na puchche haal, uske sang Girdhari Lal'.

He is banking on the strong Sangh cadre and the support of the Brahmin-Mahajan voters to sail home once again. In the run up to getting this ticket, Giridharilal Bhargav was competing with Pramod Mahajan.

After having lost the Bani Park assembly segment in the Jaipur constituency in December last, Khachariyawas jumped at the opportunity when Congress decided to take him in its fold.

Subhadra Papriwal, General Secretary, Jaipur District Congress Committee, says Kachariyawas, did not fit into the BJP, as he was not a fanatic.

As former president of the Rajasthan University's Student's Union and state BJP youth wing, Khachariyawas has led agitation for the right of colony dwellers and brick-kiln workers.

The promises made by him include providing drinking water facilities, regularisation of colonies on agricultural land and the metro rail project for Jaipur.

Bhargav has been the quintessential socialite with enviable accessibility among the masses. He boasts of the broad gauge in the railways, his pet international airport project and supporting the regional broadcast service. He promises satellite towns around Jaipur, and according central university status to the Rajasthan University.

But he is accused unabashedly garnering votes for himself, cashing in on the Vajpayee factor. The Congress alleges the BJP candidate siphoned funds from the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) to RSS-supported projects like 'Adarsh Vidya Mandir' schools in the name of education.

But, Kalicharan Saraf, BJP, MLA, relaxes, and predicts that there will be a margin of over 2,00,000 votes, citing the figures as to how the margin has been increasing over the years.

In the 18 lakh electorate for the Jaipur constituency, there are nearly, four lakh Brahmins, 350000 Banias, 1,50,000 Sindhi-Punjabis and over 10000 Jats. The BJP has given seven tickets to the Jats this time. Saraf emphasises that this time the government employee is with the BJP, after Vasundhara Raje's 'Kisan-Karamchari-Yuva' formula.

The Congress attributes Girdharilal's past success in the Jaipur constituency to the 'Rule of Precedence'. The Jaipur constituency has traditionally been swept over by the dynasty factor, right from the days of Maharani Gayatri Devi's Swatantra Party during '62 to '71.

In Jaipur, its neither Hindutva nor development. Caste continues to be the parametre defining politics. In the December assembly polls, the BJP had won seven of the eight assembly segments falling under the Lok Sabha constituency, wresting five of them from the Congress.

This time the contest will be close. People feel that old timer Bhargav might not sweep the polls, he definitely has competition from the brash Rajput, as they recognise Kachariyawas.

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