Saturday, Nov 29, 2003
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By Gargi Parsai
The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, is arriving here tomorrow to campaign for the Congress candidate, Yasmin Abrar, wife of the Rajya Sabha MP, Abrar Ahmad. The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani's programme was cancelled at the last moment. The main contestants do require the visits of these VVIPs as there is a keen contest between Ms. Abrar and the BJP nominee, Kirori Lal Meena.
Till a few days ago, Ms. Abrar, the sitting MLA, was comfortably placed. But in the last few days after the influential Meena community decided to back Mr. Kirori Lal, the BJP has closed the gap.No longer can the Congress take it easy on the basis of the 35,000 Muslim votes. Even in the last election, Ms. Abrar's margin of victory was barely 13,000 votes.
Despite the lack of development, particularly concerning drinking water facilities, the voting pattern here, as elsewhere in the State, is based on caste calculations. During drought, a local lawyer, Mahesh Choudhry, had served notice on the Water Works Department to make the administration move.
Only then tankers were pressed into service. Even now, water supply is erratic as a wrong pipeline has been laid.
This correspondent also had a taste of the insensitive administration when for issuing a security pass to cover Mr. Advani's meeting, senior local police officials refused to recognise the Union Home Ministry-cleared identity card, the Parliament press gallery card and a driving licence saying all that could be "forged''. Nobody was willing to take responsibility for issuing a card. After wasting one-and-a-half-hour, a senior police officer from Jaipur intervened to issue a card after checking out with The Hindu office over the phone.
The contest in the constituency has become interesting with the entry of Bharat Singh Rajawat of the Samajik Nyaya Manch, a social organisation is in the fray for the first time. The Manch is standing up for reservation for the economically backward sections within the "sawarn'' or upper castes. As such, with people reeling under inflation and lack of job opportunities, their agenda has touched a chord. Mr. Rajawat has the potential to wean away the traditional voters of both the BJP and the Congress among the upper castes. In fact, so delicate is the balance between the BJP and the Congress that some people feel he may be the dark horse.
The presence of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) candidate, Moti Lal Meena, will divide the Meena votes to the disadvantage of the BJP. Normally, the Meena community backs the Congress. This time their panchayat has taken a decision to go along with candidates of their caste belonging to the BJP and the INLD. If the INLD cuts into some of the Meena votes, the rest will equalise the Muslim vote bank of the Congress. The 40,000 Brahmin and Vaishya votes are likely to be divided between the Congress and the BJP, while the Gujjars and Rajputs are expected to back the Samajik Nyaya Manch. In such a situation, it will be a touch-and-go situation for both the Congress and the BJP. Whichever caste comes out in larger numbers to vote will hold the sway.
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