For Girija Vyas, all problems begin at home

PTI | BySaroj Nagi, Udaipur
May 01, 2004 02:01 PM IST

Who is the real woman of substance? That is the thrust of the battle between Cong's Girija Vyas and BJP's first-timer Kiran Maheshwari.

Who is the real woman of substance? That is the thrust of the battle between the Congress veteran Girija Vyas and the BJP's first-timer Kiran Maheshwari in Udaipur — the only Rajasthan constituency where the two main contenders are women. Sunita Gujjar (BSP) provides the third angle in a five-cornered contest.

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Vyas, a Brahmin, is fighting her fifth general election against Maheshwari, a Bania, in the Brahmin-Rajput-dominated constituency.

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"The battle is essentially between a rising star and a falling star," said Vasudev Devnani, BJP's campaign coordinator. He contrasts Maheshwari's meteoric rise (from municipal council chairman to Lok Sabha nominee) with Vyas' status as a "former" minister and a "former" PCC chief.

The saffron party also tried to push into the background the Congress campaign against the "unfulfilled promises" of the Vasundhara Raje government while papering its own in-house differences on nominating a newcomer and a Bania even though the Brahmin-Bania relationship isn't exactly healthy in this constituency.

Vyas' main advantage is her status as a veteran leader and the backing she expects from upper-caste voters.

Besides this, she has won three elections convincingly — with a 5-8 per cent lead over her rivals. She had lost the 1998 elections by less than two per cent votes.

But this time, apart from battling the anti-incumbency factor, Vyas has to contend with a heavy influx of RSS-BJP activists, from Gujarat, in Udaipur in the run-up to the May 5 elections.

To compound her difficulties, the Congress, which has barely recovered from the resounding defeat in the assembly elections, remains divided.

The differences between Vyas and C.P. Joshi, former minister and Nathdwara MLA, are an open secret.

Insiders question Vyas' inaction when the Ashok Gehlot-anti-Gehlot battle saw rebels spoiling the Congress chances in the assembly polls.

There is also the surging ambition of middle-rung party leaders who see Vyas' continuation as a hurdle in their own political future. Though the BJP too has its own in-house problems over Maheshwari's nomination, the Congress has failed to capitalise on them.

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