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Battle intensifies for Jat votes in Rajasthan

To cash in on Jat support, the Congress has fielded as many as six candidates belonging to the Jat community against two by the rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

india Updated: Nov 26, 2003 14:24 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

The story doing the rounds in this Jat heartland of Rajasthan is that that the tilt of "Baba"'s cap decides fate of ruling Congress in the December 1 assembly elections.

Veteran Congress leader and Speaker of State Assembly Parasram Maderna is known as "Baba" among his fellow community people who are the deciding factor in about 80 seats in 200-member Assembly.

The saying among the Jats is that if the Baba wears his Gandhi cap straight he is favouring Congress and if the cap is tilted the Jat voters go haywire.

"Baba's cap is straight this time," claims PWD minister Harendra Mirdha, son of senior Congress leader Ram Niwas Mirdha, although Maderna is yet to descend in the area for campaigning.

What the story goes to show is the intense battle between the BJP and the Congress for securing a slice of Jat votes in the polls.

Baba appears to have direct influence in 10 assembly constituencies in Nagaur district which boasts of 35 per cent of Jat votes among 17 lakh voters. Besides Jats, 25 per cent SC and ST voters and 15 per cent Muslims are the other key factors in the polls.

To cash in on Jat support, the Congress has fielded as many as six candidates belonging to the Jat community against two by BJP.

While Jat candidates of the ruling party figure in Nagaur, Merta, Degana, Ladnu, Nawan and Deedwana BJP's nominees from this community are in fray from Mundawa and Merta.

Absence of any prominent Jat leader in BJP is limiting the prospects of BJP in the Jat land and presence of Social Justice Front candidates may also erode Rajput base of the party because of SJF leaders Devi Singh Bhati and Lokendra Singh Kalvi, son of late Kalyan Singh Kalvi a powerful Rajput leader.

Congress is bringing in former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal to woo Vishnoi voters, a move considered necessary to garner his community's support not only in Nagaur district but also in other areas, including Luni in neighbouring Jodhpur district.

Haryana's ruling INLD, led by Jat leader and Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, is also campaigning aggressively among Jats in the area, something which can hurt Congress as supporters of the ruling party feel that Chautala's party is proxy for BJP which finds it difficult to make a dent in Jat vote bank.

The recent announcement of Rajasthan Jat Mahasabha to support BJP in the polls is also a major talking point in Jodhpur and Nagaur. However, many feel that the "fatwa" by the Mahasabha would not be accepted by all the community people.

First Published: Nov 26, 2003 10:51 IST