Rajasthan Assembly election: From Vasundhara Raje to Ashok Gehlot, a look at key faces contesting state polls

With a total of 2,873 candidates in the fray for 200 seats in Rajasthan, the state Assembly Election 2018 result is likely to set the ground for the Lok Sabha election next year. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have considered several factors like caste and political weight of leaders before fielding candidates to ensure they spend maximum time in their segments.

Already, exit poll results for the Rajasthan Assembly Election 2018 predicted a clear majority for Congress on Friday, the day polling ended for the state.

As the state gears up for the poll results on 11 December, here is a look at the key candidates in the fray:

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Vasundhara Raje

Raje, who is the incumbent chief minister of Rajasthan, has been representing the ruling BJP in the state Assembly since 2003, preceding senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot. She contested the elections from Jhalrapatan constituency from Rajasthan's Jhalawar district, same as she did in the 2003, 2008 and 2013 elections.

Raje has declared assets and properties worth Rs 4.54 crore, which is about 12 percent higher than the Rs 4.04 crore she had declared in 2013. She also has no criminal cases filed against her.

Her first brush with politics came in 1984 when she was made a Member of the National Executive of the BJP. A year later, she was appointed as vice president of the party's Yuva Morcha. The same year, she was elected a member of the 8th Rajasthan Assembly from Dholpur.

Earlier, it was speculated that she may contest the election as an Independent candidate. However, she did not file her nomination until the last day.

She is a graduate in economics and political science from Sophia College in Mumbai.

Ashok Gehlot

The Congress fielded veteran leader Gehlot as its chief ministerial candidate, who has previously served as chief minister from 1998 to 2003, and again from 2008 to 2013. He represents Jodhpur's Sardarpura constituency as an MLA.

According to reports, Gehlot declared that he and his wife only have Rs 30,000 cash in hand, but have movable and immovable properties worth Rs 6.44 crore. Reportedly, his nomination papers showed that his assets have increased 10 times in 10 years. Gehlot said the growth was due to the rise in the prices of property.

Both Raje and Gehlot, are the only two politicians in Rajasthan who have never changed their constituency.

In 1971, during the East Bengali refugees crisis, Gehlot served in the refugee camps. Then-prime minister Indira Gandhi met Gehlot during this time and identified his organisational skills. She subsequently appointed Gehlot as the first state president of the state's NSUI unit.

Sachin Pilot

The son of former Union minister Rajesh Pilot, Sachin Pilot currently serves as the chief of the state's Congress unit. He has declared assets of over Rs 5 crore, with no criminal cases pending against him. He contested the state polls for the first time, from Rajasthan's Tonk constituency.

Though Sachin has been an MP before and a Union minister in the Manmohan Singh government, and also has the political backing of supporters of his late father Rajesh Pilot, he has not fought an Assembly election before. However, the fact that he is a chief ministerial contender from the Congress has given him an instant head start.

"Tonk is a good seat for me to contest which touches Ajmer and Dausa. Since I announced to contest the elections, there were requests from 13 to 14 districts and the party decided Tonk. We will win a significant number of seats in the entire Rajasthan and particularly in the eastern parts," Pilot, 41, said.

"The party workers have worked hard not only in this region but in the entire state and the result of the election will make this clear. Not only Tonk, but the party is also going to win the majority of seats in Rajasthan," he said.

The erstwhile royal family of Tonk, which has a significant influence in the town but it is not politically involved, has extended its support to Pilot in the polls.

Manvendra Singh

Son of former BJP leader and external affairs minister Jaswant Singh, Manvendra crossed over from the BJP to the Congress just months ago. He quit BJP on 22 September and joined Congress on 17 October. He contested the polls from Jhalrapatan, fighting against incumbent chief minister Vasundhara Raje.

A former soldier in the Indian Army, who fought in the Kargil war, Manvendra will be fighting against BJP leader and incumbent chief minister Vasundhara Raje from Jhalrapatan constituency. He is a graduate from Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts, and the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

According to reports, some see Manvendra’s induction into the party as a calculated move to appease Rajputs. On the other hand, the decision to field him is also a signal for the Jat community that the party is fielding him from an expendable seat and making him move out of Jodhpur region, thus reducing Rajputs’ influence there.

Krishna Poonia

Krishna Poonia, who shot to fame when she won an individual gold medal at the Commonwealth Games 2010, is one the 27 women contestants being fielded by the Congress. She is in the fray from Sadulpur Assembly seat in Churu and is pitted against former BJP MP Ram Singh Kaswan and the sitting BSP MLA Manoj Kumar Nyangali.

In the last Assembly election, she finished third behind the BSP and the BJP candidates on the Sadulpur seat.

In an interview to PTI, Poonia said she scripted history in sports and this time the people will back her and ensure the "number one spot" for her in the polls as well. When asked as to what would she do to promote sports infrastructure in Sadulpur, Poonia said she will build an international-level athletics stadium in her constituency, among other things.

Poonia has taken part in three Olympics (2004, 2008 and 2012) and she is one of the few Indian tracks and field athletes to have qualified in the final round of any event in the Olympics. She finished sixth in 2012 London Games.

Yoonus Khan

Yoonus Khan, who is the state transport minister, contested on a BJP ticket from Tonk constituency, against state Congress president Sachin Pilot. He is the saffron party’s only Muslim candidate in the state.

Many have speculated that Khan’s candidature is a strategic move to appease Muslim voters since Tonk has a notable Muslim community. Asked if Tonk having a large number of Muslims was one of the reasons behind his candidature, the BJP leader had said the election there only will be on the basis of performance and agenda.

Khan, a sitting MLA from Deedwana constituency, was kept reserved by the party until the last moment. After the Congress fielded Pilot from the Muslim-dominated constituency, the BJP replaced sitting MLA Ajit Singh Mehta, who figured in an earlier list and announced Khan's candidature in the last minute.

Khan’s campaign promises include employment opportunities, intra-state connectivity, and alleviating the drinking water crisis in Tonk.

Gulab Chand Kataria

The incumbent Home Minister of Rajasthancontested the Vidhan Sabha polls from Udaipur, same as he has done the last three elections. Kataria has been fielded against Congress’ Girija Vyas, who defeated him in the 1985 polls by 512 votes.

Kataria, along with three others, was arrested in 2013, for murder in the infamous Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. Kataria is the second high profile politician to be named in the alleged fake encounter case after BJP president Amit Shah.

Shortly after his arrest, PTI had quoted the BJP leader as saying that he would resign from the Rajasthan Assembly if found guilty in the case. "A political game has been played to implicate me in this case. The real face of the CBI and the Union government will be revealed after the investigations," Kataria had told reporters. Kataria was discharged in 2014 by the trial court.

Kataria has previously claimed that he has the support of both the brothers from the Mewar royal family: Arvind Singh Mewar and Mahendra Singh Mewar.

Zahida Khan

Contesting the elections from Kaman (Bharatpur) constituency, Zahida Khan is one of 27 women candidates being fielded by the Congress. She has been pit against the BJP’s Jagat Singh, who had defeated her in the 2013 polls with a margin of 3,357 votes.

Her grandfather, Mohammad Yasin Khan, along with Mahatma Gandhi, was instrumental in stopping the Meo community from going to Pakistan in 1947.

Her daughter Shahnaaz Khan is the youngest sarpanch of Garhazan village, which is in Mewat, an area that includes parts of Haryana and Rajasthan.

Harish Chandra Meena

Dausa MP Harish Chandra Meena is of note that he also switched over from the BJP to Congress. Meena joined the Congress in the presence of former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) chief Sachin Pilot and AICC's state in-charge Avinash Pande.

Harish was DGP during Gehlot's chief ministership and was pitted by the BJP against his brother and senior Congress leader Namonarain Meena in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the Dausa constituency.

He had won the seat by defeating his nearest rival Kirori Lal Meena, who was then a candidate of the National People's Party, by a margin of 45,404 votes. His brother Namonarain Meena, then a Union minister, had stood third in the result.

Following Harish's transfer to the Congress in November 2018, Kirori Lal Meena said that the decision will have no impact on tribal votes in Dausa and its nearby regions in the state polls. “There will be no impact. People know who is an opportunist and an opportunist can go anywhere,” Kirori said.

Hanuman Beniwal

Former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Hanuman Beniwal contested the state polls from Khinvsar constituency. Beniwal,  a Jat leader and independent MLA, is the man behind the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which contested all 200 assembly seats in the state.

When announcing the news of his party, Beniwal had said that the RLP is an alternative to both the “corrupt” BJP and the Congress in the state. He is confident of his party's victory in about 130 of the 200 Assembly seats in Rajasthan.

In an interview with Firstpost, he had said that the RLP was expecting the support of the Jats, Meghwals, Muslims, Yadavs and the Kumawats. "Our ally, the BVP and its founder have a huge appeal among the upper castes, especially the Brahmins. So we are expecting major backing from them too," he said.

Beniwal's campaign promises include free electricity for farmers, converging major canal projects and uplifting micro-industries. He also wants to maintain reservations for minority communities in the state.

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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2018 16:07 PM

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