Jaswant gets sympathy in Barmer, but will votes follow?
The suspension of Jaswant Singh's son from the BJP has raised more sympathy for the former foreign minister, but this may not be enough to get him the seat.
Jaipur: Senior leader Jaswant Singh, expelled from the BJP for contesting as an Independent candidate from the Barmer constituency, in the thick of the Thar desert, was disturbed when he heard about the suspension of his legislator son Manvendra Singh from the party. While Manvendra closeted himself in a room and refused to comment, the father called his suspension from the party a “conspiracy “ hatched by his political adversary Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Manvendra's suspension did not arouse much feeling in the party circles, but on Thursday evening a group of supporters of Jaswant Singh, mainly Rajputs pelted stones at the car of his rival, Col Sona Ram Choudhry when the latter's cavalcade was passing through a village. The people in Sheo, the constituency from where Manvendra won the assembly election, however, are anxious about his political future. The constituency has a large number of minority voters.
"This is a suspension and Manvendra would be asked to explain why he campaigned for his father against the official candidate. In the BJP after the process of suspension we give enough opportunity to the suspended person to explain his conduct and put forth his point. The next step would be taken only after Manvendra gives his explanation," said BJP president Ashok Parnami.
But surely, the BJP with all the bitterness against Jaswant is unlikley to allow Manvendra go scot free. The party is not desperate for numbers and his suspension won't hurt it. Father Jaswant was also expelled from the party earlier for writing a book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, praising him for his statesmanlike qualities. This book, according to informed sources, was ghost written by Manvendra.
Jaswant wanted to contest on the BJP ticket from Barmer which is his home district. He is a Rajput, but the party wanted to field a majority Jat candidate. So they fielded Col Sona Ram, who defected from the Congress to join the BJP on the assurance that he would be given the party nomination.
In Barmer, Rajputs have won the seat on four occasions. This is despite the fact that Jats (including Bishnoi) comprise about 26 percent of the total electorate as compared to Rajputs who are barely 13 percent. The Muslims constitute about 14 percent of the voters. But it’s the Scheduled Caste that holds the key in this constituency.
The contest is triangular and apart from Jaswant Singh and BJP’s Colonel Sona Ram Choudhry the sitting Congress MP Harish Choudhry, who is a Jat is also in the fray. Jaswant's hope lies in the sharp division of the Jat votes and overwhelming support of the Muslims and the Dalits that he enjoys.
“In Barmer and Jaisalmer, the Congress could get only one out of the total eight seats in the assembly elections. But as the Rajputs would vote in favour of Jaswant and a sizeable number of Muslims are also favouring the Independent Jaswant, so the BJP’s votes would split. But the Jats community are politically very agile; once they see that the split in Jat votes would help Jaswant they could consolidate their votes and cast their votes in favour of the Jat having an edge. In this case Col Sona Ram would pip Harish eventually and Jaswant Singh may finish as runner-up,” according to Vimal Bhatia, a political observer.
Barely three months ago, the Congress even with its several social schemes and freebies worth several thousand crores suffered a humiliating defeat when the party could get only 22 seats in a House of 200, while the ruling BJP amassed a whopping 163 seats. The morale of its party workers is very low now and are faced with an almost hopeless task putting up a decent challenge to Vasundhara Raje’s 'Mission 25'.
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