Former Minister fielded as substitute’ hopes to breach BJP’s fortress in Jaipur

Pratap Singh Khachariyawas is fielded by the Congress as a substitute for the original nominee who was dropped

Published - April 19, 2024 05:35 am IST - JAIPUR

Congress candidate Pratap Singh Khachariyawas campaigns in Jaipur ahead of the Lok Sabha election

Congress candidate Pratap Singh Khachariyawas campaigns in Jaipur ahead of the Lok Sabha election | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Former Rajasthan Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, considered a ‘reluctant candidate’ of the Congress, is fighting a tough battle from the Jaipur Lok Sabha seat after being fielded as a substitute for the original nominee who was dropped because of his controversial background.

A two-time MLA, Mr. Khachariyawas, 54, lost his Jaipur’s Civil Lines Assembly seat in the 2023 election.

The Jaipur Rural Lok Sabha seat is also witnessing a fight between BJP’s seasoned politician Rao Rajendra Singh and a young student leader, Anil Chopra, fielded by the Congress with the backing of former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot. Both Jaipur and Jaipur Rural constituencies will go to the polls in the first phase on Friday.

Mr. Khachariyawas, the nephew of veteran BJP leader and former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, was selected by the Congress after it faced an embarrassment over the candidature of Sunil Sharma, chairman of a private university, when his alleged association with a right-wing forum, Jaipur Dialogues, came to light.

So far, the former Minister has put up a strong show against BJP’s Manju Sharma, while addressing rallies, holding roadshows in open vehicles, organising corner meetings and interacting with evening walkers at the public parks. Jaipur is considered a stronghold of the BJP, as only three Congress candidates have been elected from here since the first Lok Sabha election held in 1952.

Since 1984, Jaipur has consistently elected a Brahmin as an MP, either from the BJP or the Congress. BJP’s Girdhari Lal Bhargava won six consecutive times from the constituency since 1989 till his death in 2009. The Congress has opted to experiment this time with Mr. Khachariyawas as a Rajput candidate.

In a recent interaction with journalists here, Mr. Khachariyawas said the people were feeling disillusioned with the BJP’s policies and programmes as well as the Centre’s “failure on all fronts”. “BJP’s arrogance is visible in the way it has conducted its election campaign. Except a false sense of supremacy, they have nothing to offer to the voters,” he said.

The BJP’s Ms. Sharma, 64, making her debut in the Lok Sabha election, is riding on a wave created by the visits of senior party leaders to the State capital. Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a roadshow in Jaipur recently, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed campaign strategies for Jaipur during his stopovers for travelling to different locations to address multiple rallies.

Ms. Sharma, who has replaced two-term MP Ramcharan Bohra, has highlighted Mr. Modi’s guarantees in her campaign, while promising to strengthen infrastructure in the city, promote tourism and improve the law and order situation.

In the Jaipur Rural constituency, Mr. Chopra, 31, was fielded by the Congress after the defection of former Minister Lalchand Kataria and former MLA Rajendra Yadav to the BJP. The seat was earlier represented twice by BJP’s Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Mr. Chopra is pitted against veteran BJP leader Mr. Singh, who is banking on his 35-year-old political career for connecting to the masses.

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