A 77-year-old former fauji is traversing the deserts of the largest parliamentary constituency — Barmer — in the scorching heat of 42 degree Celsius.
The fauji — Jaswant Singh Jasol — a former BJP member, who held important portfolios in the NDA government at the Centre, is not daring the heat and the dust of the cruel summer here just to enter Parliament for “one last time”. It’s a huge prestige issue between him and chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who belongs to the Scindia clan.
This fight, however, is not new. Legend goes that in 1790, former Gwalior ruler Mahadji Scindia invaded Marwar region (of which Barmer is a part) and defeated the local Rajput rulers.
Now, more than two centuries later, a Scindia scion has once again taken on a Rajput of Marwar. The scene is, however, set in a political battlefield.
Jaswant Singh, who was very keen to contest from Barmer parliamentary constituency for one last time, was denied his wish.
According to reports, Raje had a vital role in denial of party ticket to him. Singh, in retaliation, declared he would still contest from the same place — this time as an independent.
The consequences were obvious — he was expelled from the BJP.
Wary of his political clout and support base among various communities, the BJP is now leaving nothing to chance.
On March 28, Raje visited Barmer and even went to Jasol, Singh’s hometown.
She visited three religious places too, including Rani Bhatiyani temple run by Jasol family trust and met Singh’s nephew and trust head Raval Kishan Singh.
But she had to face hostile slogans from Singh supporters at Jasol helipad and later on the temple premises.
Kshatriya Yuvak Sangh (Rajput youth organisation) chief Bhagwan Singh Rolsahabsar said: “We will ensure Jaswant Singh gets maximum support from all communities and castes.
Raje too, is not taking things lying down.
Know for her iron-hand approach, Raje has directed party legislators from Barmer and Jaisalmer to ensure victory of party candidate Col (retd) Sonaram Choudhary, 73, former Congress leader, or face consequences.
Several Rajput leaders have also been sent to the area to set the caste equations right.
But as Purkh Singh of Barmer says: “Jaswant’s son Manvendra Singh won election from this seat and his father will win too.”
At a recent public rally at Pachpadra in Barmer, the prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi neither endorsed Choudhary’s candidature nor lashed out at Singh.
But critics have, however, come down heavily on Jaswant Singh.
“Jaswant’s decision of contesting election against the BJP candidate is not a good thing.
The party had given him enough respect. He enjoyed top portfolios in the NDA rule and his son was party legislature too.
He should have shown similar respect to the party,” a political observer Hemraj Choudhary said.
May be it’s the oil fields of Barmer, which have led to the renewed interest in the area and the reason why no politician wants to let go of the region.
But Jaswant, as political observers here say, has played a huge gamble.
By deciding to go against the party, Singh has not only put his legacy at stake, he has jeopardised the political career of his son Manvendra too.
Recently, the party suspended the primary membership of Manvendra for assisting his father.