Lok Sabha Elections 2019: BJP ignores Barmer MP Sonaram, fields former legislator
BJP leaders said sitting Barmer MP Col. Sonaram was not fielded in 2019 Lok Sabha elections considering his age (he is 78) and party’s defeat in assembly segments of the Lok Sabha constituency in the state polls held last year.Updated: Apr 16, 2019 14:49 IST
The Barmer Lok Sabha seat was in spotlight in the 2014 general election after former union minister Jaswant Singh announced to contest as an independent candidate. BJP’s co-founder Singh turned a rebel after the party refused him a ticket from his home turf.
Instead of Singh, the BJP picked Col. Sonaram Choudhary, a Congress leader who joined the BJP only days before the elections. Before switching to the BJP, Choudhary was a three-time Member of Parliament from the Congress. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Barmer seat in 1996, 1998 and 1999. He had lost to Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh in 2004. It was the first victory of the BJP from the desert constituency. Manvendra won by 2.72 lakh votes.
After the defeat in 2004, Sonaram contested the 2008 assembly elections in Rajasthan on a Congress ticket from newly created Baytoo seat and won. In 2009, the Congress ignored Sonaram’s claim to contest from the Barmer parliamentary seat and fielded Harish Choudhary. Harish defeated BJP’s Manvendra Singh.
Sonaram again contested assembly election from Baytoo in 2013, but lost. Ahead of the 2014 general election, he defected to the BJP and was fielded against Jaswant Singh. It was a triangular fight between Sonaram, Jaswant (independent) and Congress’s Harish Choudhary. Sonaram won riding on a Modi wave.
This time the BJP has ignored sitting MP Sonaram and fielded Kailash Choudhary, a former legislator from Baytoo who lost the last year’s assembly elections to Congress’s Harish Choudhary. The Congress has fielded Manvendra Singh who switched to the Congress ahead of assembly elections.
BJP leaders said Sonaram was not fielded again considering his age (he is 78) and party’s defeat in assembly segments of the Barmer Lok Sabha constituency. Sonaram said he was betrayed by the local party leadership. “The party used me during 2014 elections. My people wanted me to turn rebel but I am with Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.
Located in the western part of Rajasthan as a part of the Thar desert, the Barmer parliamentary constituency shares border with Pakistan. The constituency, spread over Barmer and Jaisalmer districts, comprises eight assembly segments, of which one is reserved for scheduled castes.
In the coming Lok Sabha polls, 19.30 lakh voters -- 10,26,787 male and 9,03,497 female – are eligible to exercise their franchise in Barmer. In 2014, the voter turnout in Barmer was 72.56%.
Promises and performance
With BJP governments at the Centre and in the state (till last year), it was expected that Sonaram would bring development to the backward region. But locals say it did not happen. People say Choudhary failed to fulfil his claims he made during the election campaign, such as completion of water projects, permanent solution to the problems of residents of the Desert National Park, issues of Pakistani migrants, rail link between Jaisalmer to Kandla and Barmer to Mumbai, and drought management.
Though he raised the issues in parliament many times, he did not get government’s attention. In his five-year term, Choudhary mostly depended on PM Narendra Modi’s schemes.
He claimed that he had got sanction for Rs 9396-crore projects to build roads on 1465 kms. He said laying of roads on 537 kms has been completed with an expenditure of Rs 2003 crore and the remaining work is in pipeline. He said Rs 990 crore was spent on construction of 66,832 houses under PM Awas Yojana. “In five years 3 lakh LPG gas connections were given under the PM Ujjwala scheme while the figure was merely 1.5 lakh in past seventy years.”
Sonaram claimed that 1.5 lakh hamlets have been electrified under Deen Dayal Gram Jyoti Yojana and Rs 200 crore has been sanctioned under the Saubhagya Scheme or Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana. He claimed that Rs 1196.66 crore was spent on expansion of 447.56-km national highways passing through the constituency. “Besides, Rs 4036.26 crore will be spent on the Bharat Mala project which will connect the country’s eastern and western parts. Flyover and railway over-bridges, passport service centres in Barmer and Jaisalmer and air connectivity to Jaisalmer are some other achievements.”
Hemraj Choudhary, a local resident, said, “Whether it is Modi government or any other government, whether it is Col. Sonaram Choudhary or any other MP, it does not matter for us. Since long we have been hearing tall claims and now we are hopeless about politicians as we have to manage our needs. We are deprived of drinking water, electricity, education and health facilities. There is no solution to our problems.”
First Published: Apr 16, 2019 14:49 IST