Stage set for desert storm

In bipolar battle of 25 constituencies, both BJP and Cong mobilise star campaigners
Stage set for desert storm

JAIPUR: The desert state of Rajasthan is witnessing a fierce political showdown as the traditional rivals — the Congress and the BJP — lock horns in a largely bipolar battle.

With the BJP having bagged all 25 seats in the state in the last two Lok Sabha elections, the stakes are high for the saffron brigade. But the Congress is also making a determined bid to thwart a clean sweep by the BJP and has strategically formed alliances and fielded candidates on only 22 seats — leaving three seats for its alliance partners.

The coming Parliamentary polls pose a significant challenge for Chief Minister Bhajanlal Sharma of the BJP, who despite being a debutant MLA rose to the CM’s office. The BJP has deployed a galaxy of its leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, UP CM Yogi Adityanath, and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

In response, the Congress has also mobilised its key figures — party president Mallikarjuna Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, and Priyanka Gandhi. In the last two elections, the Congress failed to secure any seats but this time around, it is likely to gain some ground despite its loss of power in the state. However, cracks have emerged in the Congress alliance, especially in the Banswara seat in South Rajasthan. The BJP too faces internal challenges as the party changed 14 sitting MPs in the state.

The BJP is mainly banking on Prime Minister Modi’s popularity to continue its stranglehold on the state in the polls. However, Sonia Gandhi’s active involvement in Rajasthan, after her absence in the last two elections, signals a strengthened opposition, particularly in key constituencies like Nagaur, Barmer, Sikar, Churu, and Kota. Notably, this election marks the absence of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, adding a new dynamic to the political landscape.

Among the most contentious seats is Churu, where former BJP MP Rahul Kaswan, now contesting on a Congress ticket, faces BJP candidate Devendra Jhanjadia. The credibility of senior BJP leader Rajendra Rathod hangs in the balance amid traditional rivalries between the Rajput and Jat communities.

Similarly, the Jalore seat has emerged as a pivotal battleground with former chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son, Vaibhav Gehlot contesting against BJP’s Lumbaram Chaudhary.

Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat re-enters the fray in Jodhpur, and to face Congress’s Karan Singh Uchiyarda. Sources suggest that Shekhawat also from factions within the BJP unhappy with his tenure at the Centre for a decade. The Congress has delegated the Nagaur seat to an alliance partner, RLP’s Hanuman Beniwal who is battling Jyoti Mirdha, granddaughter of the influential Mirdha family, who defected from Congress to BJP.

Another heated contest unfolds in Kota, where Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeks re-election. He faces Prahlad Gunjal, who recently switched allegiance from BJP to Congress. Despite Kota being a BJP stronghold, Gunjal — an influential Gurjar community leader, enjoys support particularly from Vasundhara Raje’s camp — is dissatisfied with her exclusion from the CM post. Banswara-Dungarpur stands out as one of the seats where the Congress has faced major embarrassment. Rajkumar Raut of the Bharatiya Adivasi Party (BAP) is challenging BJP’s Mahendrajit Malviya who recently defected from Congress and was considered close to former CM Gehlot.

Though Congress initially fielded Arvind Damor as its candidate, the party ultimately threw its weight behind BAP. Shockingly, the party’s candidate Damor refused to withdraw his nomination forcing the Congress to expel him from the party.

Congress faced setbacks when Sudarshan Singh Rawat declined to contest from Rajsamand, prompting the transfer of Damodar Gurjar, originally the candidate from Bhilwara, to Rajsamand. Meanwhile, former assembly speaker CP Joshi was fielded from Bhilwara in a bid to court the influential Brahmin community. Joshi’s opponent from BJP is Damodar Agarwal.

In Alwar, Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav’s electoral prospects appear strong due to Congress’s perceived lack of preparedness. Similarly, Union Minister Arjun Meghwal seeks reelection from Bikaner. Overall, the bipolar battle in Rajasthan has become more interesting as the Congress has aligned with partners like the CPM and RLP.

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