For many in the Sardarpura constituency of Jodhpur, it’s not about selecting an MLA, but about voting for the chief minister, Ashok Gehlot. Its lanes and localities are weighing his fate — and his victory margin.
Gehlot is the only candidate who has had three consecutive victories from here, but with every win the victory margin has decreased. In the 1999 by-polls, Gehlot won by 49,280 votes, 2003 by 18,991 and in 2008, the victory margin declined to 15,499.
The BJP candidate from here is Shambu Singh Khetasar, an ex-president of the Jodhpur University Students’ Union. In 2008, Khetasar contested as independent candidate against the Congress’ Mahipal Maderna from Osian after being denied a BJP ticket. He lost by a few votes; this year, he is contesting from Sardarpura.
Gehlot, meanwhile, has been running from pillar to post seeking a mandate for the Congress in the polls, slated for December 1. His wife, Sunita, and loyalists Rajendra Solanki and Randheer Dhankad are also actively campaigning door-to-door to ensure his victory.
Sardarpura might be a sure-shot seat for Gehlot, but his criticism also continues on the side. Some claim the area, especially in and around Mahamandir locality, is visibly better-maintained than the adjoining regions of Jodhpur city and Soorsagar.
“Jodhpur is the only district in India which has an IIM, IIT, AIIMS, Police and Law University and NIFT. It’s all because of Gehlot, he gets my vote,” says Mahamandir resident Ramesh Chawla.
Jagdish Gehlot, a vegetable seller, hits out at the BJP saying, “They only talk about temples but Gehlot has renovated all temples here.”
The rest of the constituency complains about Gehlot’s rare visits and bad water and road conditions. Dhan Singh, a resident, lists his complaints: “For years, there has been no construction of roads. The sewer lines are choked.” He alleges that Gehlot developed only those areas that have Congress councillors.