In Rajasthan, Congress-BJP engaged in tug of war over royals
The wooing of erstwhile royal families is a well-planned strategy to counter the Congress’ hold among some other ex-royals.
Jaipur: Rajasthan and royalty are inseparable. And it is not only about magnificent forts, palaces and tourism revenue. The royal houses shape political equations in the state to some degree and punch way above their weight when it comes to elections, courtesy their sway over the Rajput community in their pocket boroughs. That explains why neither the BJP nor the Congress takes them lightly. Also, it helps that they have deep pockets.
While big ex-royal families of Udaipur and Jodhpur have still not shown open allegiance to any of the parties, the Jaipur family has taken the plunge in electoral politics after nearly two decades.
Diya Kumari, 42, daughter of erstwhile Jaipur Maharaja Brigadier (retd) Bhawani Singh, joined the BJP in the presence of party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and national president Rajnath Singh on 10 September in Jaipur. Brig Singh had unsuccessfully contested election on a Congress ticket in the year 1989 from Jaipur.
Diya takes forward the legacy of her grandmother Rajmata Gayatri Devi, one of the founders of Swatantra Party, who represented Jaipur parliamentary constituency from 1962 to 1971. The Rajmata was daring enough to take on the Congress with her Swatantra Party during 1960s and 70s.
Analysts feel had her party been taken ahead in planned manner it would have been a strong regional party with support from majority of royal families. Diya is likely to contest assembly polls from Jaipur or Sawai Madhopur constituency.
“She will be fielded for the general elections in 2014 if she does not contest in the assembly polls,” said a senior party leader.
Whether she wins is difficult to predict at this moment but for now the princess has started meeting people in an ancestral bungalow at Civil Lines.
Political analysts say the wooing of Diya by the BJP is a well-planned strategy to counter the Congress’ hold among some other ex-royals. The latter enjoys the support of influential royal personages like Bhanwar Jitendra Singh from Alwar and Chandresh Kumari Katoch from Jodhpur, both Union ministers.
In 2009, Ijayraj Singh, scion of Kota’s royal family, had contested the Lok Sabha elections and won comfortably. Katoch, who is married to a royal family in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, was fielded by the Congress from Jodhpur as the BJP was planning to field her brother Gaj Singh, head of erstwhile Jodhpur royal family. The Jodhpur ex-royal family owes allegiance to the BJP and is likely to field candidates in future.
The person instrumental in winning over the ex-royals to the BJP is Vasundhara Raje, the party’s chief ministerial candidate. In 2008, she convinced the Bikaner and Karauli royal families to take the plunge. Siddhi Kumari from Bikaner and Rohini Kumari from Karauli won assembly seats successfully last time. Raje’s son Dushyant Singh occupied the Lok Sabha seat from Jhalawar after his mother became chief minister in 2003 and vacated her seat.
“Royal families were averse to politics after Independence and more so after the Union government under then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi abolished their privy purses in 1971. But gradually they realised the importance of being part of political process,” Harsh Singh, who has written on royal families in the state, said.
The aura of Raje, who was married in Dholpur royal family, played a vital role in attracting ex-royals to the political fold, he added.
Scions of the Bharatpur royal family Vishvendra Singh and his wife Divya Singh are known names in the state politics. The family was attached to the saffron party but changed its loyalty from the BJP to the Congress in 2008 assembly elections.
Before shifting to the Congress, Divya was a Member of Parliament from the BJP. The family of Union Minister Bhanwar Jitendra Singh was also close to the BJP but the young prince was lured away by the Congress. He is now part of AICC vice president Rahul Gandhi’s inner group.
In the backdrop of these developments, the ex-royal family of Udaipur is likely to get into politics as Lakshyaraj Singh, son of family head Arvind Singh Mewar, is getting married to Nivriti Kumari of Bhubaneshwar ex-royal family who is associated with the BJP.
Though the Udaipur family has given no indication of joining any party, the BJP will try to woo the ex-royals to strengthen its prospects in Mewar region. This region covers 38 constituencies and remains crucial in formation of government in Rajasthan.
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