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Rajasthan polls: Cong's first list a mix of seasoned and new candidates

The list includes former ministers from Ashok Gehlot's cabinet

Shruti Jain | The Wire 

Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot
Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot

released its first list of 152 candidates for the late on Thursday after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) announced its two lists for 162 seats earlier this week.

The delay is attributed to the statements issued by Congress’s frontrunners for the chief ministerial post in the state – Sachin Pilot and – declaring that both would be contesting the polls. The move has divided the party into two factions. Earlier, it was speculated that only one would contest in order to avoid the tussle for the top post.

Former chief minister Gehlot will run from his traditional Sardarpura seat in Jodhpur, whereas Rajasthan president Pilot – who is fighting his first assembly election – will contest from the Tonk seat.

The party has repeated 20 of its MLAs in its first list. There are 23 Jat, nine Muslim, 13 Rajput, 24 ST, 29 SC and 20 women candidates.

In the run-up to the polls, infighting between Pilot and Rameshwar Lal Dudi, leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan legislative assembly, has surfaced quite a few times. Dudi is set to contest from his Nokha seat where he had managed a comfortable win of 66,554 votes in the last election over the then BJP candidate.

Former ministers in the Gehlot cabinet, Shanti Kumar Dhariwal from Kota (North) and Bharosi Lal Jatav from Hindaun (SC), who lost the last polls by a margin of 14, 861 and 8,111 votes, have been given another chance.

Surprise announcements

Former National Commission for Women chief Girija Vyas will contest from the Udaipur seat against Gulab Chand Kataria, home minister of Rajasthan.

C.P. Joshi, senior party leader and former president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Committee, who lost his own seat by one vote despite bringing the party to power in the 2008 assembly polls, will contest from the Nathdwara seat.

Coping with BJP’s candidates

Mahaveer Prasad Mochi of Congress will fight against Kailash Chandra Meghwal, speaker of Rajasthan legislative assembly and former Union minister of state, ministry of social justice and empowerment, from Shahpura, a reserved seat for SC candidates.

From Ajmer – the bastion of BJP since 1990s where the Congress recently made inroads in the Lok Sabha by-polls in January – Mahendra Singh Ralawata is up against Vasudev Devnani, minister of state for primary and secondary education and a close confidante of Raje.

Former Congress chief in Rajsamand, Narayan Singh Bhati will contest against Kiran Maheshwari, a cabinet minister in Raje’s government. Bhati had already filed his nomination from the Congress Party a day before the list was released. In the last polls, Hari Singh Rathore had contested and lost to Maheshwari by 30,575 votes.

Rafiq Mandelia will contest from the Churu constituency against Rajendra Singh Rathore, sitting BJP MLA and minister of rural development, panchayati raj, parliamentary affairs and elections.

Rewards for ex-BJP candidates who recently joined

Habibur Rahman, former BJP MLA from Nagaur who had recently joined Congress, will be the party’s candidate from Nagaur seat.

Similarly, former BJP MP Harish Meena, who joined the Congress on Wednesday, has been issued a ticket from the Deoli-Uniara seat.

Repeated despite losing the last polls

From Sadulpur, Olympic athlete Krishna Poonia will lead the seat once again. In the last assembly election, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won the seat, followed by BJP. Poonia was behind by 24,397 votes from then BJP candidate Kamla Kaswan, who is now replaced by her husband Ramsingh Kaswan.

Jitendra Singh, will contest from the Khetri seat in Jhunjhunu district against sitting BSP MLA Pooranmal Saini. While the seat was won by the BSP contestant, Congress was ahead of BJP by 9,359 votes. BJP has replaced its candidate this time.

New faces

To fight back BJP’s incumbent candidates, Congress has given tickets to 79 new candidates in the first list.

Divya Maderna, daughter of Mahipal Madena, a former Congress minister who is under arrest due to his alleged involvement in the Bhanwari Devi murder case, will contest from the Osian seat. Devi, an ANM from Jaliwada, Jodhpur went missing in 2011 after a CD allegedly showing Maderna in a compromising position with her was aired on television by a news channel. Later, Devi’s burnt body was recovered by the CBI from a canal near Jodhpur.

Rita Kumari Chaudhary would be contesting from Mandawa, where Narendra Kumar – an independent candidate – won in the last polls and is being given a ticket from BJP this time.

From Amber, where BJP has retained its candidate Satish Poonia despite him losing the seat in the last polls, a new candidate, Prashant Sharma will represent Congress.

Sitting MLAs that have been dropped

From Danta Ramgarh seat in Sikar which has been the epicentre of farmers’ protest in the Shekhawati region and where Congress had won the last elections, winning candidate Narayan Singh has been replaced with Virendra Chaudhary. Remarkably, BJP has retained Harish Chandra Kumawat, the contestant who suffered a defeat by a close margin of 575 votes against Singh.

Three sitting Congress MLAs have been dropped – Narayan Singh from Danta Ramgarh, Heeralal from Jhadol and Ghanshyam from Todabhim. Noticeably, in the first two seats, BJP has retained the candidates who had lost to Congress in the last polls. For the third seat, BJP is yet to announce a candidate.

Violation of AICC ticket criteria

The All India Congress Committee had put out certain conditions for issuing tickets in the upcoming elections. These included not giving tickets to the candidates who had lost elections three consecutive times or had lost by a huge margin of around 30,000 votes in the previous election.

However, it seems that the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee has not bothered to meet the criterion on some seats.

Madan Lal from Dag, an SC reserved seat, has been retained despite losing by a massive margin of 50,397 votes. Similarly, Saleh Mohammad retained his candidature from Pokhran seat despite losing by 34,444 votes. Shrawan Kumar from Surajgarh who lost the seat by 50,219 votes has been issued a ticket from the same seat and Kailash Chand from Manohar Thana seat is brought in despite losing by 34,666 votes. Interestingly, BJP has dropped its winning candidates from all these seats.

Important seats awaiting candidates

The party hasn’t yet announced any candidate against chief minister Vasundhara Raje from Jhalarapatan. Raje has been winning this seat consecutively since 2003. That year, Sachin Pilot’s mother, Rama Pilot had contested against Raje, but she lost. In 2008, Mohanlal Rathore, a former Jhalrapatan MLA lost to her and in the last polls, and she managed a comfortable win by a margin of 60,896 votes over Meenakshi Chandrawat, a former Khanpur MLA.

From the Malviya Nagar seat where Congress spokesperson Archana Sharma is speculated to contest against Kali Charan Saraf, medical and health minister in the Rajasthan government, no announcement has been made so far by the party. Sharma lost the seat in the last election by a huge margin of 48,718 votes.

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First Published: Mon, November 19 2018. 07:35 IST