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More than prestige at stake for Rajasthan Congress in bypolls to two Lok Sabha seats

The bypolls need to be held within six months of the seats turning vacant and several BJP leaders have thrown their hat in ring.

jaipur Updated: Sep 18, 2017 21:22 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times
Mahant Chandnath,Sanwar Lal Jat,Sachin Pilot
The Alwar bypoll has been necessitated following the demise of the sitting BJP MP Mahant Chandnath (left).(HT File Photo)

Rajasthan is set to witness a keen political contest in the coming days with two Lok Sabha constituencies --- Ajmer and Alwar — gearing up for bypolls.

The bypolls have been necessitated following the demise of the sitting BJP MPs of the two seats --- Sanwar Lal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chandnath (Alwar). The bypolls need to be held within six months of the seats turning vacant and several BJP leaders have thrown their hat in ring.

A bigger challenge, however, is in front of two Congress stalwarts – Sachin Pilot and Jitendra Singh.

In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Jat defeated Pilot by 170,000 votes while Chandnath defeated Singh by 284,000 votes. There’s a moral pressure on both these Congress leaders to contest the respective seats.

The BJP, which won all 25 Lok Sbha seats in Rajasthan in 2014 riding on the Modi wave, will not want its tally to go down and make all efforts to retain Ajmer and Alwar in the bypolls. The Congress, on the other hand, will try to fight these polls as the semi-final ahead of the Assembly election due later next year.

However, experts feel it may not be easy sailing for the Congress in these two constituencies because winning bypolls against the ruling party is always a tough task.

“We have seen how in the Dholpur Assembly by-election, the contest became Congress versus the state government, and despite state Congress president (Sachin) Pilot camping in the eastern Rajasthan district for a long time, the party lost,” said Rajiv Gupta, a political analyst.

Pilot is heading the party in the state and is in the reckoning for the chief minister’s post if the party wins 2018 Assembly election. He will be unwilling to spoil his chance by facing an election before the Assembly poll – more so when the party is likely to field a member of Jat’s family to cash in on the sympathy wave.

Similarly, in Alwar, Singh realizes he may be up against a strong Yadav leader, maybe a minister in the Raje cabinet, in the by-election.

In 2009 parliamentary election, Singh defeated Dr Kiran Yadav, wife of labour minister Dr Jaswant Singh Yadav, because two BJP leaders – Dharampal Chaudhary and Rohitash Sharma – openly supported Singh. If the BJP decides to field a Yadav again, the two may back the Congress man.

Sharma is also a contender for BJP ticket from Alwar because in the constituency, Brahmins are in an equal number as the Yadavs.

An indication of this was Sharma’s birthday celebration at Alwar Circuit House on August 8 this year. Locals say this was the first time in his political life that Sharma celebrated his birthday. The event, they add, was meant to show his political clout.

Some reports also suggest that the anti-Yadav lobby of BJP was getting in touch with yoga guru Ramdev to convince him to contest from Alwar. The lobbying is a part of the campaign to keep Yadav out of the fray.

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 21:22 IST