The Mewar region in southern Rajasthan, famous for the Rajput valour and resistance against the mighty Mughals, has always voted for a winner the last two decades. The ruling Congress secured 20 of the 28 Assembly seats in six districts of Mewar in 2008.

Both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party face challenges from party rebels, independent candidates and National People’s Party entrants. Even though the tribal population in Banswara and Dungarpur districts, adjoining Gujarat, is considered a traditional Congress vote base, the BJP and NPP are trying their best to entice them through their star campaigners.

Major campaigners

BJP prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, NPP national president P.A. Sangma, Dausa MP Kirorilal Meena and Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav have addressed huge election rallies in the region.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited Chittorgarh and Salumbar shortly after Mr. Modi’s first rally in Udaipur following the announcement of candidates’ names, while party president Sonia Gandhi came to Dungarpur later.

The BJP has fielded as many as 12 new candidates and Congress five from constituencies in which they suffered defeat in previous elections. Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly Gulab Chand Kataria and AICC general secretary C.P. Joshi, the latter appointed as the party’s election campaign committee president in Rajasthan, wielded their influence in selection of candidates, feel political observers here. This was a major factor responsible for the rebel candidates entering the fray.

Four-time MLA Mr. Kataria is pitted against the Congress’ new entrant, Dinesh Srimali, in Udaipur, where the electorate have focussed their attention to the local issues such as pollution in lakes, delay in railway gauge conversion between Udaipur and Ahmedabad, lack of progress in the Dewas and Ayad river projects, illegal mining and delay in the establishment of a High Court Bench.

Public relations activist Tuktak Bhanawat pointed out that the personality-centric poll campaign had shifted the attention away from the promises made in the past. “Even the manifestos of the two [major] parties do not offer anything substantial for our region. Voters here have witnessed their alternate victories in the past and turned sceptical now,” he said.

However, BJP leader Kunkilal Jain, in-charge of Mr. Kataria’s poll campaign, told The Hindu that party candidates could not be held responsible for lack of progress on crucial issues as the BJP was out of power. While the BJP rejects charges levelled against Mr. Kataria in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, the Congress has not been able to bring the issue to the mainstream discourse here.

Personality-centric campaigning has shifted focus from past promises: activist