Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha Election: Jodhpuri voter will take pragmatic approach in choosing between BJP, Congress

The defining linguistic feature of a Marwari — people born in areas around Jodhpur — is his complete reluctance to say the Hindi alphabet Sa and Sh. For reasons that are both hilarious and serious, a Jodhpuri would always replace Sa with a Ha.

So, if you hear a Jodhpuri accusing of speaking haaf jhoot (lie), don’t be under the illusion that you have resorted to half-truths. What you are guilty of is actually speaking saaf jhoot (clear lie). Similary, sach (truth) becomes hach, sui (needle) becomes hui, and supari (betel nut) becomes hupari. Go back further down in history and some linguists in Jodhpur would even trace the origin of the word Hindu in this linguistic variation — a himple, err simple, substitution of the S in Sindhu by the sound H. But, that’s a different debate.

In adjoining Jalore, also part of Marwar, Sa and Sha becomes Cha and, funnily, Cha becomes Sa or Sha. And with this primer on the Marwari phonetics, let’s come to the point, which is the ongoing election for the Assembly in Rajasthan.

In Jalore, most people will tell you that there is very little chance of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, or if we were to keep in mind the Marwari linguistic feature, Vachundhra Raje, returning to power. They argue, this year the fight is between Achok Gehlot (Congress leader Ashok Gehlot) and Chashin Pilot (Sachin Pilot). The reason, as a woman asked Raje point blank at an election rally, is clear: Educated youth are sitting at home. They do not have jobs or employment. “Kai vote dewan? (Why should we vote?)” Also, they argue, farmers (kichan in Jalore) are on the verge of ruin because of low yields and falling prices of crops.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Congress has got its finger on Marwar’s painful nerve. At a rally in Pokhran on Monday, Rahul Gandhi addressed both these issues when he promised to waive off loans to farmers and guaranteed that the next chief minister of Rajasthan will work 18 hours a day just to ensure the youth get jobs.

From their linguistic preferences, you can infer Jodhpuris are lazy (some argue they replace Sa with Ha because uttering the former alphabet requires more effort or the labour of spitting out the hupari they have stuffed in their oral cavity) as well as pragmatic. Notice that they use an H in place of S only when the word starts with that alphabet. If an S or Sh appears in the middle or at the end, they leave it untouched. So, unlike in Jalore, Vasundhara doesn’t become Vahundhara in Jodhpur and Ashok doesn’t become Ahok, but Sachin morphs into Hachin. (Legend has it that when India once played a one-dayer at the Barkatullah Stadium here, the stands echoed with the quasi-familiar chant of ‘Hachin, Hachin.’)

So, in this election, the Jodhpuri voter is taking both the easy way out and being pragmatic. The easier route is reflected in their preference for the BJP on seats where the Congress has put up Muslim candidates, especially in Jodhpur’s Soorsagar. Here, before the election began, the consensus was the BJP candidate Suryakanta Vyas was on her way out. Vyas, interestingly, is almost 75 years old and should have by now earned appellations like aunty or granny, but, for some reason, is still called Jiji (elder sister). The Congress has revived Jiji’s chances by fielding a local mathematics professor Dr Ayub Khan. Unfortunately, the caste and community arithmetic doesn’t seem to favour him.

The Jodhpuri’s pragmatism is evident in the steadfast loyalty to Gehlot, who wins every election by the simple expedient of announcing his candidature from the city’s Hardarpura (Sardarpura) constituency. Voters know that even if all of Congress were to be decimated, they would still have a powerful man representing them in the Assembly. So, whatever by the nature of the poll — Modi wave, anti-incumbency, Ram Mandir — Gehlot is certain to win by a huge margin.

Jodhpuris love sweets, pyaaz kachori and mirchi (green chilly) pakora. Many of them start their day with spicy hot snacks that an average Indian would eat only at the risk of summoning the fire brigade to douse the fire that erupts from every pore. The election in the region, in accordance with the gastronomic taste, is also not bland.

The Congress believes it has the edge because of rising anti-incumbency and the presence of Gehlot, one of the frontrunners for the top job. But the old-school ticket distribution by the party — three Muslims, four Jats, three Rajputs, four SC — has shifted the debate from Raje’s tenure to caste equations. And since the outcome now depends on local factors, the BJP is back in the race.

Also, Gehlot as a frontrunner, is a bit of a double-edged sword. While some communities support him blindly, there are others who oppose him with equal vigour. In the end, this love-hate relationship with Gehlot generally balances the gains and losses.

Once upon a time, Jats of Marwar believed their stalwart leader, the late Parasram Maderna, would become the chief minister. But Maderna was pipped by Gehlot and the Jats still hold it against him. But this year, the presence of Pilot in the fray — he spoke just before Rahul Gandhi at Pokhran and thus occupied the higher position in public perception in the Congress pecking order — may bring Jats who don’t want Gehlot as chief minister back to the Congress fold. But the BJP too is going out of its way to retain Jat voters.

Since the situation is fluid, there is no point asking a Marwari: Hachi, hachi bolo (tell honestly), who could be the next chief minister?

You are unlikely to get a haaf picture.

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Updated Date: Nov 27, 2018 19:08:13 IST

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