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Rajasthan: Adivasi Might vs Modi’s Speech in Banswara; Om Birla Takes on a Former Friend in Kota

Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Banswara has put the spotlight on the constituency, where the tribal party — Bharat Adivasi Party's — popularity has promised a closely fought electoral battle. 
BAP leader and Banswara MP candidate Rajkumar Roat during an election rally. Photo: X/@roat_mla

Jaipur: After a low turnout in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, the 13 remaining parliamentary constituencies in Rajasthan — Barmer, Banswara, Jalore, Udaipur, Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Ajmer, Kota, Pali, Jodhpur, Jhalawar-Baran and Tonk-Sawai Madhopur are all set to vote on April 26, Friday. 

With crucial, neck-and-neck electoral battles set to take place in particularly some seats in western and southern Rajasthan, the political campaign has also seen increased animosity between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition Congress. 

After the first phase of polling in 12 seats of Rajasthan concluded on April 19, data from the Election Commission of India (ECI) has suggested that the voter turnout was 57.87%, lower than the 63.71% turnout in 2019, when the BJP and its allies won all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state. 

Amid speculations that the low voter turnout won’t benefit the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself launched a scathing attack on the Congress with his now controversial speech in Banswara where he claimed that if Congress comes to power, it will redistribute wealth among “those with more children” referring to Muslims. 

Banswara has become one of the most closely fought seats in Rajasthan, where the electoral might of the BJP is against a candidate of the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP), to which the Congress has extended its support.

While back in 2019, a speech delivered by Prime Minister Modi in Churu after the Balakot airstrikes wherein he vowed that he won’t let India bow down had resulted in massive support for the BJP, his recent speech in Banswara has resulted in opposition parties slamming the BJP for targeting Muslims.

With both the Congress and BJP going all guns blazing in the second phase, here’s a look at the key electoral battles in some of the constituencies in the northern state which will vote on April 26.

Banswara: Adivasi might vs Modi’s speech 

In Banswara, where Modi delivered his controversial speech, the BJP has fielded Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya, a Congress turncoat who switched to the saffron party earlier this year. A local strongman who has been a multiple-time MLA and MP, Malviya holds substantial clout in the region. On the other hand, the main challenger to Malviya is Rajkumar Roat, second-term MLA from Chorasi and a leader from the the BAP. 

In recent times, the BAP has emerged as a formidable force in Banswara-Dungapur and presently holds three seats in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly. The massive crowds that Roat and the BAP have been drawing has even made the Congress extend its support to the tribal party. However, the Congress’s election symbol will also be listed on polling day, courtesy its rogue candidate Arvind Damor, who didn’t withdraw his nomination despite the grand old party extending its support to BAP. 

Prime Minister Modi’s speech in Banswara has put the spotlight on the constituency, where the tribal party’s popularity has promised a closely fought electoral battle. 

Battle for Barmer and other seats in western Rajasthan

One of the most anticipated electoral battles will be witnessed in the border district of Barmer, where a triangular fight is being played out. The Congress and its ally RLP are supporting the candidature of Ummedaram Beniwal, who recently had switched to Congress from the RLP. Beniwal is up against incumbent MP from Barmer and Union minister Kailash Choudhary, who is eyeing a second consecutive term from the seat. 

Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty

While Beniwal and Choudhary are both Jats — members of the Jat community form a substantial chunk of voters in the Barmer seat — the electoral contest has been made triangular by the entry of independent MLA from Barmer’s Sheo Ravindra Singh Bhati, 26, who enjoys massive popularity among the youth. Social media has been abuzz with huge crowds that Bhati has been drawing in his election campaign wherein he claims to have the support of all communities including Muslims, who also form a crucial vote bank. It is speculated that Bhati, a Rajput, will secure the support of his community, which is otherwise traditional voters of the BJP, making the outcome of the battle in Barmer more unpredictable with two Jat and one Rajput candidate. 

In Jodhpur, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is eyeing a third term from the seat and has now been challenged by the Congress’s Karan Singh Uchiyarda, another fellow Rajput. Ever since his candidature, Uchiyarda has been vociferously taking on Shekhawat and the BJP. In neighbouring Jalore, former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot is pitted against the BJP’s Lumbaram Choudhary. Back in 2019, Vaibhav Gehlot had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Jodhpur and was defeated by Shekhawat. 

The other seat in western Rajasthan that will see polling on Friday is Pali, where the BJP’s PP Chaudhary will take on the Congress’s Sangeeta Beniwal. 

Electoral fight in Mewar, BJP’s bastion

Four seats in Mewar region — Udaipur, Rajsamand, Bhilwara and Chittorgarh will also see polling on Friday. The Mewar region is a stronghold of the BJP, where the party’s state president and incumbent MP from the seat C.P. Joshi is contesting the Lok Sabha elections from the Chittorgarh constituency against veteran Congress leader Udailal Anjana. In Udaipur, BJP’s Manna Lal Rawat is pitted against retired bureaucrat Tarachand Meena, who has been fielded by the Congress party. 

Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister C.P. Joshi has been fielded from Bhilwara, and will take on the BJP’s Damodar Agarwal. The BJP has fielded Mahima Kumari Mewar, a member of the erstwhile Udaipur royal family, while the Congress candidate is Damodar Gurjar. 

In Hadoti region, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla faces an old friend, Raje’s son eyes fifth term

One of the most interesting electoral battles is taking place in Kota, where former BJP MLA Prahlad Gunjal joined the Congress just before the elections and is up against incumbent Kota MP and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Once close friends who rose up through the ranks of the BJP, the fallout between the duo has resulted in a high pitched election campaign. 

Gunjal comes from the Gurjar community and enjoys substantial support in the Hadoti region, while Birla has been winning the seat since 2014. 

In Jhalawar-Baran, former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant Singh is eyeing a fifth term from the seat and is pitted against Congress’s Urmila Jain Bhaya. While Raje has been missing in action from the state’s politics ever since the BJP opted for Bhajan Lal Sharma for the post of the chief minister, the veteran leader has been actively campaigning for her son in Jhalawar. 

Electoral battle in Sachin Pilot’s backyard

The electoral contest in Tonk-Sawai Madhopur is interesting because the constituency is the area of influence of former deputy chief minister and incumbent Tonk MLA Sachin Pilot. While the Congress has banked its hopes on Harish Meena, a Pilot loyalist who is also an MLA from the region, the BJP has once again fielded Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria, who has won the seat two consecutive times since 2014. 

While Jaunapuria is from the Gurjar community, it is expected that Meena will also get some support from the community owing to the fact that Pilot, who is also a Gurjar enjoys massive support from the community. 

In neighbouring Ajmer, BJP leader and incumbent MP from the seat Bhagirath Choudhary will take on Ramchandra Choudhary of the Congress. 

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