Rajasthan may see many new faces

JAIPUR, MARCH 3 .The main political parties in Rajasthan, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, are on the look-out for candidates with winning chances even as most of the outgoing members of the Lok Sabha are keen on re-nominations. The parties, going by the presence of strong anti-incumbency factor against the sitting MLAs in the recent Assembly polls here, consider it wise to introduce new faces as far as possible.

The onus of change is more on the BJP -- which reaped the benefits of anti-incumbency factor recently -- as it has 16 MPs against 9 of the Congress in the outgoing Lok Sabha. Barring two -- for obvious reasons, the Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, who represented Jhalawar and reportedly, Raghuvir Singh Kaushal from Kota -- the rest from the BJP are said to be interested in contesting again.

In the Congress, one person who has opted out of the race this time is seemingly Ashok Gehlot, the former Chief Minister, who stepped down as MP from Jodhpur after winning a by-election in 1999. Mr. Gehlot, now the party in charge for Chattisgarh and Himachal Pradesh, has expressed his disinclination to fight the Lok Sabha this time. The Congress is apparently finding it difficult to get a new and acceptable face for Jodhpur.

In the context of the likelihood of the BJP dropping a few of its outgoing MPs the suggestions of the arrival of some "outside'' leaders for fighting the elections here are floating in the air. Some of the names mentioned in this context are of Pramod Mahajan, the party general secretary, the cine actor, Dharmendra and Laxman Singh, brother of the former Congress Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dijvijay Singh.

While Mr. Mahajan's candidature is mentioned in the context of the Lok Sabha constituencies of Jhalawar and Jaipur, Dharmendra's name figures against the Jat dominated constituencies of Sikar and Bharatpur. Laxman Singh's candidature is suggested for Jhalawar, which adjoins Madhya Pradesh. It is said that Ms.Raje had played a role in bringing him to the BJP from the Congress.

Initially there were some talk about Ms.Raje's son Dushyant Singh fighting from Jhalawar seat but she herself has discounted this with the argument that her son should devote time for his family. The candidature of Satyanarain Gupta, a close associate of Ms.Raje from the area, is also considered.

The Congress option is to field Bharat Singh, successful party nominee from Digod in the recent Assembly elections, from Jhalawar. The party candidate from the seat in 1999 was Abrar Ahmed, now a Rajya Sabha MP. The Congress has not given out any hints on the chances of Rama Pilot fighting the Lok Sabha elections this time. She was the unsuccessful Congress candidate against Ms.Raje in the recent Assembly elections from Jhalrapatan seat, falling in Jhalawar Lok Sabha constituency.

The general impression here is that her son, Sachin Pilot, would be the likely nominee from Dausa, won by Rama Pilot in a by-election after the death of her husband Rajesh Pilot.

There is a likelihood of the BJP repeating its former national president, Bangaru Laxman in the reserved seat of Jalore. The outgoing MP from Jalore is the Congress leader Buta Singh, who is seeking a re-nomination. Mr.Singh is said to be willing to fight from Sriganganagar seat as well where the BJP's Nihal Chand had won in 1999.

The seats the BJP may opt for a change include Alwar, Sikar, Bharatpur, Jaipur, Ajmer, Bhilwara and Pali. The Jaipur seat, a hot favourite -- going by the winning chances -- is reportedly being eyed by the national treasurer of the BJP, Ramdas Agarwal, Mahesh Chandra, former Rajya Sabha member, Sunil Bhargava from the party's intellectual cell, to name a few.

The BJP is in a piquant position on Bharatpur seat as the party's outgoing MP, Vishvendra Singh, a scion of the Bharatpur royal family, is not in good terms with it at present. Mr.Singh's wife and former BJP MP from the seat, Divya Singh, had joined the Indian National Lok Dal prior to the recent Assembly elections. The observers here are of the view that Vishvendra Singh, who started his political career with the Congress, might either return to that party or may join Nationalist Congress Party to fight the election this time.

In the southern districts like Udaipur and Bhilwara too the BJP and the Congress are said to be toying with the idea of surprise candidates.

The BJP is said to be considering the nomination of Raj Singh Dungarpur, the doyen of Indian cricket and scion of the former ruling family of Dungarpur, for the Udaipur seat. Girija Vyas, the outgoing MP from Udaipur and former president of the Pradesh Congress Committee, is to seek re-nomination from the seat though sources say that she is keen on moving over to the neighbouring Bhilwara seat.