JHalRaPaTaN liKEs maHaRaNi
In this round of Assembly elections, Rajasthan was considered to be the weakest for the Bharatiya Janata Party compared to the other two party ruled states, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Even the central BJP leadership had felt that they might lose Rajasthan “just because of unpopular and arrogant Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje”. Surprisingly, a few days before the elections in Rajasthan, there were reports that the BJP was making a fast recovery, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last minute fire-fighting, tearing into the “Congress family”. Confused, the Congress claimed that “these are BJP sponsored rumours”. The state has voted out a government every five years since 1998. “The problem with the Congress was that there was no clear leader. The Congress was like a marriage party without a groom. The problem with the BJP was the leader (Vasundhara).” This could be heard everywhere in Rajasthan. The Congress said, “There was only one election issue: Vasundhara Raje. Everyone hates this Maharani.” In her Jhalrapatan constituency, the Congress put out posters: “Swabhimaani ki ladai abhimaani se.” Recognising the massive antiCM sentiment, the BJP top heads sought votes merely on the “BJP Phir Se” slogan. The BJP chief Amit Shah also felt the heat of anti-Raje sentiments at many places. On Wednesday, he cut short his interaction with the media in Jaipur abruptly, saying, “You people are asking manufactured questions.” Provoked by a query on the BJP claiming a victory on 180 seats, Shah stood up and left.
However, Vasundhara Raje’s Assembly segment Jhalrapatan thinks differently of the Maharani. Jhalrapatan locals told that her Congress rival Manvendra Singh, son of the late BJP Union Minister Jaswant Singh, was in the wrong place and Raje, the Maharani of Dholpur, was their favourite. “No one can defeat Maharani-sa here. She has represented us for 30 years, while Manvendra is an outsider from Barmer. Even if Sonia Gandhi comes here, she cannot defeat Maharanisa.” Raje came to Jhalrapatan in 1989. She belongs to the Gwalior royalty and was married into the Dholpur royalty. In Jhalrapatan’s narrow streets, saffron flags dominated the landscape, with people more interested in Raje’s recent move to restore the local Sun Temple, which is considered second only to Odisha’s Konark Sun Temple in grandeur.