Rajasthan's Jhalrapatan Assembly seat is witnessing one of the hardest fought contests. Manvendra Singh, son of BJP veteran Jaswant Singh, is the Congress candidate against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has a tough challenge at hand. On one hand, she is tasked with the difficult job of retaining power in the face of anti-incumbency. On the other, the Congress has fielded Manvendra Singh, son of former Union minister and senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, from Jhalrapatan, a seat which the CM has won thrice.
The challenge is peculiar for Raje as Rajasthan has traditionally voted the incumbent government out of power. Other than the anti-incumbency that the grand old party has ponned its hopes on for return to power, the Congress is also banking on history for a taste of success. An upset for the BJP in this state will dent its morale in the run-up to the general elections 2019. The BJP won all 25 Lok Sabha seats from Rajasthan in the 2014 elections.
There are many factors that make this contest interesting. Prominent among them is in Jhalrapatan Vidhan Sabha where Congress has taken the fight to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s bastion. Congress has pitted former BJP minister Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh from the constituency. All four Assembly seats in Jhalawar district – Jhalrapatan, Dag, Khanpur and Manohar Thana – are currently held by the BJP.
Though the constituency has thrice returned Raje as MLA since 2003, the Congress is hopeful that Singh will stop Raje’s winning juggernaut to the Legislative Assembly. Even if Manvendra does not manage to secure a win, the Congress has ended up embarassing the BJP by fielding a veteran BJP leader’s son against its tallest leader in the state.
Raje had become the first female CM of Rajasthan in 2003. In 2003, she had defeated Rama Pilot, widow of Congress stalwart Rajesh Pilot, by a margin of 27,000 votes. But in 2008, the BJP failed to make a comeback. However, Raje retained the seat as she defeated Mohan Lal by over 32,000. In the 2013 polls, Raje beat Congress’ Meenakshi Chandrawat by nearly 60,000 votes and led her party to a historic mandate with 163 seats out of 200 seats. The Congress suffered a near wipeout in the state and managed to win only 21 seats. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP’s winning streak continued as it won all 25 parliamentary seats in the state.
The situation this time around is tricky for the BJP. Regardless of the fact that the BJP won every election barring Delhi and Punjab post the 2014 mega win in Lok Sabha polls, opinion polls predict that voters in Rajasthan will follow the decades-old practice of voting the incumbent party out of power, giving Congress the edge.
Watch video: Manvendra Singh campaign in Jhalrapatan Vidhan Sabha
According to an estimate, the Jhalrapatan Assembly seat has a total population of 3,91,746 of which 70.07% is rural and 29.93% is urban. SCs and STs comprise 17% and 8.5% of the population, respectively. As per the voter list of 2017, there are 2,31,013 electorates and 288 polling stations in this constituency. Manvendra, a Rajput, has been drawing huge crowds at his rallies despite the BJP’s criticism of him being a parachuted candidate and an outsider.
Fighting a David vs Goliath fight, Manvendra is staying put in Jhalawar and leading the campaign. Manvendra who had switch over from the BJP just weeks before being fielded against the CM, is putting this poser in all his election meetings throughout the day. He has claimed that there is a wave in favour of Congress across the state. “Apna mat kisko doge? Avavaldhi ko ya Javavaldhi ko (You will give your vote to the incoming government or the outgoing government?),” he asked the crowd in Daulatpura village on Sunday.
Watch : Raje confident about BJP retaining power in Rajasthan
On the other hand, the BJP is calling him a turncoat and an outsider. BJP’s Jhalawar MP Dushyant Singh on Sunday told PTI that Congress nominee has been parachuted to the constituency and electorate will send him back where he belongs. Dushyant is the son of Raje and is spearheading his mother’s campaign in the Jhalrapatan. In an interview to PTI, Dushyant said that Raje government has worked really hard in Jhalrapatan and the development work done by her has been phenomenal.
— Vasundhara Raje (@VasundharaBJP) December 2, 2018
In the 2013 Assembly polls, the voter turnout was 79.12% whereas it was 70.06% in general elections held next year. The BJP and Congress secured 63.14% and 29.53% votes, respectively in 2013. In 2014, while the BJP got 68% votes, the Congress had the support of 26% voters.
There are 200 assembly seats in Rajasthan. But the election will be held for 199 seats on December 7 as the polling for one seat has to be postponed due to death of a BSP candidate. Counting of votes will be done on December 11 along with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram.