Ramnarayan Chaudhary was an extremely popular Jat leader of this region, winning the Mandawa seat seven times and representing this constituency in the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha for 33 years.
When Mr. Chaudhary died last year, leaving behind two sons and three daughters, it was his daughter Rita who lit his funeral pyre.
A year after his death, his unchallenged legacy stands tall but is at test this time, much like the old and crumbling, yet beautifully ornate, havelis of this region.
Rita Chaudhary won the assembly elections held here in 2008 and is the sitting MLA, but this time around, she is fighting as an independent.
The reason — despite Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s public assurance that she would get the Congress ticket, the party caved in to pressure, inside sources say, from senior Jat leader and Union minister Sis Ram Ola and the ticket eventually went to Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Chandrabhan.
“I don’t want the party ticket status... I am here for the people of Mandawa,” says Ms. Chaudhary.
With three Jat leaders in the fray, this contest has a lot at stake — the legacy of Ramnarayan Chaudhary, the reputation of Dr. Chandrabhan, the future growth of Narendra Chaudhary, an independent who lost by a narrow margin to Ms. Chaudhary in 2008 and the strength of the political clout of Mr. Ola.
But it is the equations within Mr. Chaudhary’s family that make news reports about this constituency look like a draft script of a Bollywood political thriller.
Mr. Chaudhary’s son and Ms. Chaudhary’s step-brother Rajendra, has opted out of his father’s legacy to throw in his weight behind Dr. Chandrabhan and has been campaigning against his sister.
“Is ghar ko aag lagi ghar ke chiraag se [this family was betrayed by one of its own]. Nobody likes Rajendra, he has no reputation and his word means nothing. No Jat will support him,” says Anil Chaudhary, a local.
Rajendra’s daughter Poonam, however, has dedicated herself to campaigning for her aunt. (Locals here say Rajendra failed to take care of his daughter and it was Ms. Chaudhary who took care of her and got her married.)
“Our family has been betrayed... I hope you will all remember this and vote for my bua [aunt],” she tells people, sharing the stage with Ms. Chaudhary.
Interestingly, in 1990, Dr. Chandrabhan had won from this seat on a Janata Dal ticket, with open support from Mr. Chaudhary.
The RPCC chief, who lost his last two outings in the Assembly elections in the State, is desperate for a win.
People here believe that if Dr. Chandrabhan loses the Assembly election, his name will not be considered for the Parliamentary elections next year, which will make things easier for the Ola father-son duo.
While Ms. Chaudhary is hoping to cash in on the sympathy wave in her favour, giving her a tough fight are BJP’s Salim Tanwar and Narendra.
Narendra, who lost to Ms. Chaudhary by a narrow margin in 2008, is a former Pradhan and is hoping to benefit from the fractured Jat vote. Mr. Tanwar, on the other hand, is hoping to get support from Muslims and Rajputs.