Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: Decoding Vasundhara Raje-challenger Manvendra Singh’s Jasol suffix

Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: Jasol is part of the assembly constituency Pachpadara where Manvendra Singh held the massively attended swabhimaan rally to seek his constituents’ view on his plans to quit BJP. In that sense, he has earned the suffix Jasol, as his community’s political face.

opinion Updated: Dec 05, 2018 23:27 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times, Jasol
Rajasthan Election 2018,Rajasthan Election 2018 News,Rajasthan Constituency
Elected from Barmer’s Sheo in 2013 on the BJP ticket, Manvendra Singh Jasol has since joined the Congress and is the party’s candidate against Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje at Jhalrapatan in Hadoti region.(PTI/File Photo)

This township in Rajasthan’s mineral-rich Barmer district has had two celebrated sons: one a politician, the other a war hero. BJP veteran Jaswant Singh was India’s minister for defence and finance; his cousin, Lt General Hanut Singh, the hero of the 1971 Indo-Pak battle of Basantar in Punjab.

Neither of them used the Jasol surname which Jaswant’s son Manvendra Singh, a member of the outgoing assembly, has started using. Elected from Barmer’s Sheo in 2013 on the BJP ticket, he has since joined the Congress and is the party’s candidate against chief minister Vasundhara Raje at Jhalrapatan in Hadoti region.

Jasol is part of the assembly constituency called Pachpadara where Manvendra held the massively attended swabhimaan rally to seek his constituents’ view on his plans to quit the BJP. In that sense, he has earned the suffix Jasol, as his community’s aspiring political face.

The commonly shared view in the state’s political circles is that he has committed hara-kiri by agreeing to fight Raje on her turf. These perceptions are based on the argument that he has excluded himself from the Barmer equation by moving out of Marwar to the Hadoti region.

Read more: Vote share in 2013

The inference makes sense. The journalist-turned-politician won the Barmer seat by a big margin in 2004, defeating Col Sona Ram of the Congress who’s now the sitting BJP MP. In 2014, the latter defeated Manvendra’s father Jaswant Singh, who contested as an Independent and the Congress’s Harish Chaudhary in the Lok Sabha elections.

Interestingly, it was Chaudhary who wrested the seat from Manvendra in the 2009 polls. He and Sona Ram are contesting the upcoming assembly polls in the district: from Barmer and Baytu respectively where the contest is close.

Among the many reasons that caused Manvendra to exit the BJP are Raje’s proximity to Sona Ram and her strained ties with Jaswant Singh. Regardless of the outcome in Jhalrapatan, his potential to emerge as the leader of Rajputs in the state, a slot vacant after the late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, is strong.

In that perspective, Manvendra’s absence from Barmer in these elections could be a blessing in disguise. His cousin Rawal Kishan Singh, a former Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer lives in Jasol. But he refused to talk politics, more interested that he is in discussing the work he’s doing for water conservation and environment protection in the area.

All that Kishan Singh was willing to say was that Barmer, which is home to the HPCL’s upcoming oil refinery, needed a “visionary leadership” at the Centre and in the State. But Rajput elders with whom this writer spoke felt the no-show will help Manvendra in the future.

Read more: Win map of 2013

Their reasoning: his chances of retaining the Sheo seat were remote. At the same time, the Jhalrapatan contest has saved him the embarrassment of campaigning against the BJP’s Rajput nominees in Sheo, Pokhran and Jaisalmer. The last two seats are in Jaisalmer district but are part of the parliamentary constituency’s nine assembly segments.

In Sheo and Pokhran, the Congress’s Muslim candidates stand a good chance. A teacher who didn’t want to be quoted said: “Manvendra will be a giant killer if he defeats Raje. If he loses, he’d be seen as a brave man who challenged someone his community has come to strongly dislike.” The allusion was to the Rajput alienation from the CM on various counts.

Of the nine seats in Barmer-Jaisalmer, the Congress is reported to have an edge in Sheo, Guda Mallani and Chauhtan. The contest is too close to call in the remaining, including in Harish Chaudhary’s Baytu.

The Jat versus Jat lineup in Baytu is a replication of Osian in Jodhpur where Divya Maderna is the Congress nominee taking on Bhaira Ram of the BJP. But Chaudhary faces fellow caste-men from not just the BJP. Also in the contest is the Jat-centric Rashtriya Loktantrik Party of Hanuman Beniwal. The BSP has given a Rajput candidate.

Till electioneering closed, the poll scene in Baytu was a punter’s paradise. Amid loud support for Chaudhary at a tea-shop, a local newspaper vendor cautioned: they’re the voluble Jats whose votes will split three-ways. The communities that are silent will decide the outcome.

For full coverage on Rajasthan elections, click here.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 22:48 IST