Rajasthan: Battle of turncoats in Nagaur

Old rivals RLP chief Hanuman Beniwal, BJP’s Jyoti Mirdha battle it out in Jat-dominated seat
Hanuman Beniwal
Hanuman Beniwal

JAIPUR: The contest between MP and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) founder Hanuman Beniwal and his BJP challenger Jyoti Mirdha in Rajasthan’s Nagaur is a battle of old rivals that has heated up the Jat-dominated Lok Sabha constituency, with people talking about which of these two Jat faces will have an upper hand.

Beniwal is contesting the election this time as the Opposition INDIA bloc’s candidate following his alliance with the Congress, which was ousted from power by the BJP in the November 2023 Assembly polls. Former MP Jyoti Mirdha, who was earlier with the Congress, is the granddaughter of Nathuram Mirdha, an influential Jat leader. Both candidates had competed against each other in the 2019 elections. Beniwal defeated Jyoti who contested on a Congress ticket.

Recently, she switched allegiance to the BJP. The contest in Nagaur is intriguing for many reasons. Firstly, it features two prominent leaders from the same societal background, making the competition fierce. The division among Jat voters places the OBC and minority voters in a pivotal role, analysts say.

While the BJP has demonstrated strength in the past two Lok Sabha elections, the alliance between the Congress and RLP has injected a new dynamic into the race. Key national issues like the Ram Mandir and Article 370 dominate discussions in urban areas, while villagers focus on local concerns such as farming and caste dynamics.

Nine candidates are vying for the Nagaur seat, including Gajendra Singh Rathod of BSP, Ashok Choudhary of ARPA, and Hanuman Singh Kalvi of Rashtriya Janshakti Party, though the main contest is between Beniwal and Mirdha. These additional candidates could potentially alter the electoral landscape, with BSP’s Gajendra Singh Rajput and ARPA’s Ashok Chaudhary posing significant threats to the frontrunners, said analysts.

Beniwal is expected to secure votes from the traditional RLP and Congress supporters. A significant portion of the Jat community’s votes, potentially exceeding 60%, could pave his way to victory. On the other hand, Mirdha could benefit from a united Jat vote bank, along with OBC, upper caste, and youth voters, who are generally considered BJP supporters, analysts say. Jyoti Mirdha, a practising doctor, belongs to the Mirdha family, which has been dominant in this constituency, winning it nine times out of 18 elections.

Former Union minister late Nathuram Mirdha represented the region six times. After his death, his son and Manish’s father Bhanu Prakash Mirdha contested the 1997 by-election as a BJP candidate and won, securing the family’s eighth victory. Jyoti entered the Lok Sabha in 2009 as a Congress candidate, marking the family’s ninth win. The Nagaur constituency comprises eight assembly seats. Recent assembly election results suggest a slightly stronger Congress presence, controlling four out of eight seats, while BJP holds two. One seat each is held by RLP and an independent candidate.

Historically, Congress has dominated the Nagaur parliamentary seat, winning 11 out of 18 elections. BJP has secured victory thrice, while the Swatantra Party, Janata Dal, and RLPA each won once. In the 2019 elections, Beniwal secured 34.14% of the total votes, while Mirdha garnered 24.77%.

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