As the ruling BJP and its main challenger the Congress slug it out for winning power in Rajasthan, several smaller parties are also trying their electoral luck and there are at least 20 such entities with just one candidate each.
As many as 2,294 candidates from 88 political parties are contesting polls for 200-member Rajasthan assembly across 33 districts in the state, one of the biggest states in India, where 4.74 crore citizens are enrolled to cast their vote. While polling will take place on December 7 for 199 seats, the voting has been postponed for one seat due to death of a candidate.
While the main poll battle is said to be between the BJP and the Congress, there are many smaller parties and independent candidates in the fray with limited budget and resources and for them fighting is equally important.
Some want to reach out to the pubic with an alternative ideology, while others are optimistic about a change in the tradition of electing either of the two big national parties.
According to the official data, the BJP has fielded the maximum 200 candidates, followed by the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party with 195 and 190 each, respectively. Besides, as many as 840 independent candidates have filed nomination across all districts.
There are at least 20 parties with only a single candidate, 15 with only two candidates each, and 34 which have fielded 3-20 nominees, according to the data statistics available with the Chief Electoral Officer, Rajasthan.
In northwestern Rajasthan's Alwar district, which has 11 assembly constituencies including three reserved seats, as many as 145 candidates have filed nominations.
"Fighting election is important because how else would we reach out to the public with the ideology of our party. If we do not contest, how would people know there is another alternative to the BJP or the Congress which has better policies and solutions to people's problems," Tejpal Saini, the Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate from Alwar (Urban), told PTI.
The CPI, the CPI (Marxist), the Janata Dal (Secular), Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation) and the Marxist Communist Party of India (United) are putting up a joint fight "to defeat the communal forces" in Rajasthan under the six-party Loktantrik Morcha, CPI state secretary Narendra Acharya said.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which has fielded 142 candidates across the state including four seats in Alwar, is hopeful that a change in regime could be possible with their work on public-related issues.
"Water, roads, and electricity are the common issues which are connected to the people. Change is a natural process. Earlier there was the Jan Sangh, and the BJP emerged only in 1981.
"The AAP is only eight years old and is yet so popular across the country. It governs only Delhi but its works and policies are being talked about in villages and towns across the country," Ajay Kumar Punia, AAP nominee from Alwar (Urban), said.
The Nationalist Unionist Zamindar Party (NUZP), fighting with eight candidates from Alwar, Jaipur, Ganganagar and four other districts, believes it is a fight is to prove their existence.
"We have to prove our existence. Somebody will have to do it so that the people know there are more options, how else would the people know if not for elections. Rest it is for the people to decide who wins," the party leader Rajesh Singhal told PTI.
The BJP says that the relatively smaller parties are fighting for their existence and distribute tickets only to have their names appear on the EVMs and during elections.
"There are small regional parties which, no doubt, must be having a sway in their states or regions but I can certainly say for Rajasthan that no regional party or third front has any importance here. The public here wants only national parties and even they won't go to any third party after Congress," BJP's Alwar unit chief Sanjay Singh Narooka said.
The Congress also agrees that their main fight is with the BJP.
"The independents and candidates of small parties have no 'varchasv' (existence/domination). They can only cut votes of others, which is a normal strategy of some parties.The BJP uses this strategy often like the candidates which can damage votes (of the Congress) they get them fielded as candidates of other smaller parties," Congress' Alwar unit chief Tika Ram Jully claimed.
Money is also an issue for smaller parties and independents.
The Election Commission has capped the upper limit at Rs 28 lakh on advertisements, banners, vehicles and other campaign-related expenditure.
"What happens in this amount? The expenses go beyond the limit. I have to address rallies, gather crowds, arrange for the food and transportation of the public as well as my supporters, do you think this could be done in Rs 28 lakh?" asked a national party rebel who has joined a regional party to fight the election.
The CPI's Tejpal Saini agrees that money and muscle power have become a norm but he has only Rs 2 lakh to spend, most of which is his personal savings and rest from the donations collected from the local Left party supporters.
NUZP's Ramesh Singhal, who has a jewellery shop in Alwar city, said he believes in door-to-door campaign and estimated that his expenses would be between Rs 3-4 lakh.
"I am against pomp and show culture and travelling in cavalcades. I can go around mohallas in my scooty also," he told PTI.