Away from the Modi wave debate in TV studios and social networking sites, politics in the parched Marwar desert region is being waged on emotions and cold caste calculations. In a “battle for pride”, expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh is pitted against Congress turncoat Col Sonaram Chaudhary, a Jat leader who has represented the region in Parliament as well as the Assembly.
Jaswant, seeking revenge for the injustice and humiliation the BJP had meted out to him, is touted as dark horse in the keenly contested fight in which the support of Jats, Schedules Castes and Muslims are deciding factors.
Although Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has put all her might to ensure that Chaudhary emerges victorious since it is a matter of prestige for her too, the crucial community vote banks, including Muslims and Rajputs, may inflict serious damage to the BJP’s “Mission 25” in the state.
The Muslim community in Barmer with approximately 2.60 lakh of the total 16 lakh votes is rallying behind Jaswant, showing trust in the Jasole family that has pulled the strings to start the Thar Express to Pakistan. Although Chaudhary claims to have support of the Muslim community in the Jaisalmer Assembly constituency, where it has approximately 35,000 votes, Jaswant is confident of getting support from “Peer Pagar’ in Sheo and the Chohtan Assembly constituency. BJP leaders in Barmer allege that Jaswant has got a fatwa issued from some “Peer” leaders in Pakistan. His supporters have denied the charge.
In a conversation with Express, Chaudhary admitted that a majority of Muslims may vote for Jaswant. Chaudhary’s best bet is to convince the minority community that they will not gain anything if Jaswant is voted to power since he has run out of favour of the BJP. “He will get votes of Muslims and some Rajputs. It is unfortunate that the fight in Barmer is turning out to be on the basis of caste, but I’m in a comfortable position with the support of over 4 lakh Jat votes,” Chaudhary said.
Asked if the BJP’s grassroots workers are unhappy over the party ditching Jaswant, Chaudhary said he had got the support of three Rajput MLAs from the Lok Sabha constituency. Chaudhary also claimed to have the tacit support of the Scheduled Caste voters who number approximately 2.6 lakh.
However, several local BJP and RSS leaders have extended support to Jaswant, saying they cannot share the stage with a person who had been abusive towards the party till a month ago. Chaudhary, who fought the Assembly elections three months ago in Baytu which falls in the Parliamentary constituency on a Congress ticket and failed, is said to be looking to ride on the popularity of Narendra Modi and Raje.
The outcome of the Lok Sabha polls will decide the fate of not only Jaswant but also his Sheo MLA son Manvendra Singh, who was caught in the crossfire between his father and the saffron party.