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February 3, 1998


Many stalwarts, fewer candidates in Rajasthan

A number of political stalwarts, including former maharanis (queens), will be among the 219 candidates -- the lowest number since 1980 -- trying their luck in the February 16 Lok Sabha election in Rajasthan.

Union Minister of State for Water Resources Sis Ram Ola, former chief minister Jagannath Pahadiya, state assembly Speaker Shanti Lal Chaplot, former Union ministers Rajesh Pilot, Buta Singh, Balram Jakhar, Ashok Gehlot and K Natwar Singh, besides the former maharani of Dholpur -- and daughter of Gwalior Rajmata Vijaya Raje Scindia -- Vasundhara Raje are among the key contestants in the fray.

However, this year's total of 219 contestants for the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state, compared to the 677 in 1996, has brought down the average number of candidates per seat to nine from 27 in the last poll.

Ola, who had won the last election on an Indira Congress (Tiwari) ticket from Jhunjhunu, is contesting the same seat in a triangular fight, facing former Union deputy minister Jagdeep Dhankar (Congress) and Bharatiya Janata Party nominee Madan Lal Saini.

Former Union minister and Congress heavyweight Rajesh Pilot is seeking his fifth term in the Lower House from Dausa, a seat which he has won in 1984, 1991, and 1996. His first victory for a Lok Sabha seat was from Bharatpur in 1980. Pilot will face Rajasthan Minister of State for Transport Rohitashwa Kumar (BJP) and seven others.

Another heavyweight and former Union minister Buta Singh is contesting from Jalore as an Independent. He first won in 1984 as a Congress candidate, and then again in 1991 as an Independent after he was denied a Congress ticket. He is pitted against Congress nominee Parsa Ram Meghwal, a member of the dissolved Lok Sabha. The third major contender is the BJP candidate, Gena Ram Meghwal.

In Bikaner, former Union minister and Congress nominee Balram Jakhar will be facing 10 contestants, including current member Mahendra Singh Bhati (BJP) and former MP, Sheopat Singh of the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Jakhar, who was denied a Congress nomination in 1996 after being named in the Jain hawala case, had won the Sikar Lok Sabha seat in 1984 and 1991.

State Congress president and former Union minister Ashok Gehlot is seeking his fifth-term from Jodhpur and faces an old rival in Rajasthan Minister of State for Small Savings Jaswant Vishnoi (BJP). In Udaipur, All India Mahila Congress president and former Union minister Girija Vyas will take on assembly Speaker Shanti Lal Chaplot. Vyas represented Udaipur in the 10th (1989) and the 11th (1991) Lok Sabha.

Another fifth-term aspirant is former chief minister Jagannath Pahadia, who is contesting from Bayana (reserved for the scheduled castes). He faces sitting MP Ganga Ram Koli (BJP) and former MP, Than Singh Jatav (Janata Dal).

Bharatiya Janata Party deputy leader in the dissolved Lok Sabha and former Union finance minister Jaswant Singh is seeking re-election from the prestigious Chittorgarh seat, which he won twice -- 1991 and 1996 -- after his initial victory from Jodhpur in 1989. He battles Udai Lal Anjana (Congress).

Former Union minister of state for external affairs K Natwar Singh, who won the Bharatpur seat in 1984 as a Congress candidate, is fighting from the same seat. He faces Dr Digambar Singh (BJP) and former princess Krishnendra Kaur, who is contesting as an Independent. She had won the seat in 1991as a BJP candidate.

Other Rajasthan ministers in the fray include state BJP chief and Energy Minister Raghuveer Singh Kaushal from Kota and Minister of State for Tribal Development Nand Lal Meena from Salumber (reserved for the scheduled tribes).

Former state ministers trying their luck are Hari Singh in Sikar, Rampal Upadhyaya (Congress) in Bhilwara, Shashi Dutta (Janata Dal) in Ganganagar (scheduled castes), and Shambhu Dayal Badgujar (BJP) in Tonk (scheduled castes).

In Alwar, a former princess has donned battle colours. Mahendra Kumari is contesting as an Independent. In 1991, she had won on a BJP ticket, but the party refused to nominate her both in 1996 and in 1998.

Another former royal, Vasundhara Raje of Dholpur, is seeking a fourth term in Jhalawar. She is pitted against Bharat Singh (Congress) and Chandra Prakash Meena, the Janata Dal candidate and a retired IAS officer Raje has held the seat in 1989, 1991 and 1996 as a BJP candidate.

In Pali, former Guwahati high court chief justice Guman Mal Lodha (BJP) and Meetha Lal Jain (Congress) are among the eight contestants.

Colonel Sona Ram (Congress) is seeking a second term from Barmer. Usha Meena and Narendra Budania (both Congress) are also seeking second terms from Sawai Madhopur and Churu respectively. Sitting BJP MPs Rasa Singh Rawat and Girdhari Lal Bhargava are both seeking their fourth terms from Ajmer and Jaipur respectively, while in Banswara (scheduled tribes), Mahendra Veer Malviya (Congress) and Laxmi Nanama (BJP) are the two new faces in the fray.

Rajasthan's royal affair

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