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Rajasthan Assembly Election 2018: Cows missing from cow welfare minister’s election campaign speeches

Rajasthan assembly election 2018: Otaram Dewasi, the minister for cow welfare in Vasundhara Raje cabinet, is seeking a third term as an MLA from Sirohi in the December 7 Rajasthan assembly election. But cows do not find any mention in his poll speeches.

rajasthan-elections Updated: Nov 30, 2018 10:58 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Hindustan Times, Sirohi (Rajasthan)
Otaram Dewasi (in maroon headgear) is the BJP candidate from Sirohi in the December 7 Rajasthan Assembly Election. He is also the minister for cow welfare in the Vasundhara Raje cabinet.
Otaram Dewasi (in maroon headgear) is the BJP candidate from Sirohi in the December 7 Rajasthan Assembly Election. He is also the minister for cow welfare in the Vasundhara Raje cabinet. (HT Photo )
         

Rajasthan’s gaupalan minister is campaigning in Sirohi to seek a third term as an MLA. Otaram Dewasi, 54, has helmed India’s only ministry for welfare of cows for four years but doesn’t talk about cattle during his poll meetings in the run-up to the December 7 Rajasthan assembly election.

The man, who wraps a white cotton cloth with red border around his bare torso, wears a white dhoti and a maroon turban, looks anything but a politician but when he gets down from his grey Innova to address public meetings in Barewda and Sagalia village, he rattles off like a seasoned politician a list of works he has done as an MLA.

Cows, however, find no mention in his speeches.

A triangular gold earrings dangle from his earlobes and two thick gold bangles on each wrist stand him apart. “This is my uniform,” says Dewasi, who is pujari (priest) of a temple of Chamunda Devi in Mundara village in neighbouring Pali district.

He came into politics at the behest of former chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Shekhawat contested from Bali constituency and Dewasi marshaled his community’s support for him. Later, Vasundhara Raje made his chairman of the Rajasthan Livestock Board. Dewasi contested his first election in 2008 from Sirohi and has represented the constituency for two straight terms.

“I was the first chairman of the livestock board and the first minister of the gaupalan department,” he says as a matter of pride.

Read| Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: Unemployment dole, jobs in BJP manifesto

Dewasi is a rabari, a pastoral community, and has natural love for the livestock. When chief minister Vasundhara Raje set up the department of gaupalan in 2014 to fulfil a promise BJP made in its manifesto for the 2013 Assembly election, Dewasi was the obvious choice to head it.

Speaking to HT, the six-foot-tall minister said, “In 4 years, we have spent 450 crore as grant to cow shelters. Initially the grant was for a maximum of three months; we increased it to six and my plan is to make it for nine months.”

However, in village meetings, his work as cow welfare minister doesn’t get any mention.

Dewasi is the 11th generation priest of the Chamunda temple in Mundara, where he lives in a joint family with his three brothers. Mundara is about 100km from Sirohi city where he has set up his election office. Dewasi doesn’t have a house in his constituency and has put up in a hotel for the campaign.

During his campaign on Thursday, people shouted, “Dekho dekho kaun aaya, Chamunda ka sher aaya [Look who’s here, the tiger of Chamunda]. Women rushed to touch his feet. Some even sought the blessings of ‘baapji’ for their children . “They call me baapji out of reverence for my position as the pujari,” says Dewasi.

BJP candidate from Sirohi, Otaram Dewasi (in maroon turban and white dhoti) during an election campaign.
BJP candidate from Sirohi, Otaram Dewasi (in maroon turban and white dhoti) during an election campaign. ( HT Photo )

In a small crowd gathered to listen to his poll pitch in Morli village, there are men with maroon turbans who are rabaris.

Dewasi’s driver says, “The colour of the turban tells you about people’s caste in this area. The Kumawats wear light maroon colour and the turbans of the Meghwals is almost pink.”

Dewasi carries a file from which he reads out the works that he has done for a particular village, a pair of reading glasses precariously perched on the middle of his nose bone. Between public meetings, he calls up people on his mobile phone.

“10 days are enough to know a person – I have been here for 10 years. You know me enough now,” he begins the address in Van village, before making fun of key, the election symbol of a candidate who is contesting as an Independent after he was denied ticket by the Congress.

“There’s rust on the key; it can’t open any lock,” he says as people break into smiles. The message is conveyed without naming the candidate.

Also Read | Campaigning for Assembly polls gathers steam in Rajasthan

Dewasi speaks in the local dialect and instantly connects with the elders, especially those from his community. Sirohi’s 33-year-old Zila Pramukh (head of district panchayat body) Payal Parasrampuria makes the introductory pitch for the party. The woman in starched cotton saree is a big draw among the girls.

Dewasi carries a bunch of marigold garlands and a turban in his car, to be used in meetings by the locals and then packed for the next destination.

Click here for complete coverage of Rajasthan Assembly Election 2018

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 10:48 IST

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