BJP rebel Subhash Maharia, contesting as an Independent in the politically significant Sikar Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan, seems to have an edge. Both the BJP and the Congress have been imprudent in fielding candidates who are finding it hard to justify their presence in the fray.
The other BJP rebel enjoying a similar advantage is former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who is contesting from Barmer.
Though Mr. Maharia, a former Union Minister of State, lost as a BJP candidate from Laxmangarh in the 2013 State Assembly polls, the political scenario ahead of the Lok Sabha polls here is said to be tipped in his favour. Mr. Maharia announced his candidature after the BJP fielded a Haryana-based seer, Swami Sumedhanand, and the Congress brought in a retired technocrat, Pratap Singh Jat.
Mr. Maharia has launched a high-voltage campaign with the support of BJP workers. Outsider contestants would not be able to serve the people and address local issues is his main poll pitch. The BJP, alarmed at its activists supporting a rebel candidate, has made it clear that candidates are fielded on the basis of their capacity to win.
“Whoever supports Mr. Maharia is not a BJP worker. Swamiji is not an outsider. He runs gaushalas in Sikar district and is involved in a number of social activities here,” Mahesh Sharma, former BJP district president running Swami Sumedhanand’s election office, told The Hindu.
The Congress candidate, Mr. Jat, faces difficulties as a newcomer to politics. Being a former managing director of a public sector power distribution company, Ajmer Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Ltd., he has to answer people’s queries about the stringent action he took against agricultural power consumers through vigilance reports.
Political analyst Bhagirath Godara points out that caste equations in the Jat-dominated region would help Mr. Maharia. He was the first Jat leader to be elected to the Lok Sabha on a BJP ticket in 1998 and was re-elected twice in 1999 and 2004.
“Jats, Dalits and Muslims in Sikar are not going to vote for the BJP. They are being turned away by the party’s unwarranted emphasis on its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, whose public meeting is being planned here soon,” says Mr. Godara. Mr. Maharia would also get “votes of sympathy”, as people feel he has been denied his due, he says.
Among the 15 candidates in the fray, the other important ones are CPI(M)’s Amra Ram, a former MLA; AAP’s Surendra Kumar Punia, a former Army medico; and BSP’s Ghulam Nabi Azad. In the Jat-dominated region, it is hardly surprising that most of these candidates belong to the Jat community that plays a decisive role.
CPI(M) State Secretary Vasudev, camping in Sikar, affirms that the party’s base is intact in view of Mr. Amra Ram’s track record of struggle for agricultural power consumers, irrigation water and farmers’ rights. “Voters here are politically conscious. They are going to cast their votes in favour of the candidate who can redress their grievances.”