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Rajasthan’s erstwhile royals seek their place in the political arena

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times  Jaipur, November 19, 2013
First Published: 22:44 IST(19/11/2013) | Last Updated: 23:02 IST(19/11/2013)

The royals are demanding their space in Rajasthan’s political spectrum. Princes or princesses are contesting as candidates of one party or another for the December 1 elections.

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These days, they are also doing things the blue bloods are not known to do. Jaipur’s Diya Kumari was seen making ‘rotis’ in the hut of a tribal woman in Sawai Madhopur — from where she is contesting as the BJP candidate. The saffron party’s candidate from Bikaner, Siddhi Kumari (Bikaner principality), took to sweeping the streets the other day as a ploy to reach out to voters.

“After decades of being in political hibernation, the royalty is seeking to resurrect itself in a big way in the upcoming elections. The BJP and Congress have together put up 41 Rajput candidates —most of whom claim to have blue blood.

Taking the cue, several wannabe royals claiming to be descendants of ‘Jat’ or Muslim leaders have jumped into fray.

Some are using their village names as surnames. Signs such as “Sikar Thikenedar” (Nobles of Sikar) are prominently displayed on private buses being run by landlords. “Food and dress habits are acquiring a royal touch. The signs of change are evident,” said social worker Ashfaq Kayamkhani.

In the five decades since Independence, the erstwhile kings of Rajasthan mostly contested as Independents and these individuals only had a marginal influence on the state’s polity. Jodhpur’s Raja Hanumant Singh’s efforts to bring together the Maharajas under the banner of the Ram Rajya Parishad was cut short by his tragic death in a plane crash in 1952.

The late Maharani Gayatri Devi won and lost some elections to the Lok Sabha as a Swatantra party candidate. In 1989, her foster son, Brig Bhawani Singh, lost the Lok Sabha elections as the Congress candidate from Jaipur.

In the 1962 general elections, socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had put up Sukho (a dalit woman) against late Vijaya Raje Scindia of the Gwalior royal family.  

“That phase of Indian polity is virtually over. Feudal culture is on the rise. The new trend of Maharajas or Maharanis is an outcome of the corporatisation of political culture. They are being projected as brands, as leaders are no longer being born from political movements and struggles,” said social scientist Rajeev Gupta.

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