(This story originally appeared in on Nov 18, 2023)
Rajasthan has the tradition of not repeating its government, which means most assembly constituencies are swing seats which keep shifting between the BJP and the Congress. While this ensures that either party doesn’t have a significant number of loyal voters, it also means leaders too keep shifting from one party to another.
This dynamic has also led to some interesting contests in the upcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan where members of the same family are pitted against each other. This trend can be attributed to a large extent to the significant lack of party loyalty among voters which encourages leaders to jump ship. A family member who has been rejected in favour of another is not reluctant to seek nomination from the other party despite the family being traditionally aligned with the other party.
From jija-saali to husband-wife to uncle-niece to colleagues, below are some of the interesting fights in the Rajasthan elections:
In the Dholpur assembly constituency, the contest between two members of the same family has become all the more interesting by the fact that both the leaders have switched parties.
Shobharani Kushwah had won the seat in 2018 as a BJP candidate by defeating Congress’s Dr Shivcharan Kushwah. Shobharani, the sister-in-law (saali) of Shivcharan (Shobharani’s elder sister is married to Shivcharan), was expelled in June last year by the BJP over cross-voting in Rajya Sabha elections. This time, Congress has offered its ticket to Shobharani while the BJP has fielded Shivcharan. “Relationships and political contests are altogether different aspects and they have their own place. Therefore, during an election battle, we are candidates of our political parties and not ‘saali’ and ‘jija’,” she said.
Shobharani had won the assembly bypoll in 2017 on a BJP ticket after her husband BL Kushwah, who had won the 2013 assembly election as a BSP candidate, was convicted in a murder case in December 2016.
Shobharani, a loyalist of former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, when contesting the 2018 polls on a BJP ticket had beaten his Congress rival Shivcharan roundly. Shobharani had secured a vote share of over 45% while Shivcharan could muster 32%. The contest for Dholpur seat is expected to be triangular as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded Ritesh Sharma, a former chairman of Dholpur Municipal Council, who was earlier with Congress.
A male nurse at the district hospital in Dungarpur is contesting against a doctor of the same facility, springing a bitter pill for the senior colleague after working 10 years together.
Banshilal Katara, the nurse, has taken voluntary retirement from government service to contest as BJP candidate, while Dr Deepak Ghogra is fighting the polls on a Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) ticket after taking permission from the Rajasthan high court to participate in the elections as he is an employee of the state.
Both Katara and Ghogra are tribals and poll first-timers.
Dungarpur has a sizable tribal population. The contest has become more interesting as the doctor’s cousin, Ganesh Goghra, is the outgoing MLA of the governing Congress and has been fielded again.
“We were colleagues, treating patients together. But we are now political rivals,” said Ghogra, the medical officer of the hospital attached to the government-run Medical College, Dungarpur. Katara, who worked as a nurse and has a political background as his father was a sarpanch, said, “He (Ghogra) is contesting the polls with (legal) protection. If he loses, he will rejoin government duty. But I have resigned from service to serve people through politics,”
A husband in Sikar’s Danta Ramgarh constituency faces his estranged wife as an opponent. Rita Chaudhary has been fielded by Haryana-based Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) while her husband, Virendra Chaudhary, the sitting Congress MLA, has been renominated by the party. Chaudhary is the son of former Congress state chief and seven-time MLA Narayan Singh. That puts the voters in a quandary: to choose the beta or the bahu?
The family has traditionally been with the Congress but it witnessed a political split when Rita joined JJP in August this year, and was made the state president of JJP’s women wing. Her expectations to get a ticket from the Congress party in the 2018 assembly elections were dashed as the party chose her husband instead. After that, Rita started strengthening her own political base.
Rita said people in Danta Ramgarh want change. “Since I have been active among the people, I am confident that I will win this seat in the elections,” she told PTI. “I am more focused on issues such as women empowerment and drinking water in my campaign,” she said.
In Nagaur constituency, former Congress MP Jyoti Mirdha, who had joined the BJP recently, is pitted against her uncle Harendra Mirdha who is the Congress candidate. The saffron party has maintained a winning streak in this constituency for the past two decades. Before 2003, Nagaur was a stronghold of Congress, and its politics revolved around the influential Mirdha family. Nathuram Mirdha was a local stalwart and the head of the state Congress too. Jyoti is his granddaughter.
Nathuram Mirdha served Congress for 50 years, including six times as MP. He had won from Nagaur even during the Janata Party wave in 1977. Jyoti was Congress MP from 2009 to 2014 and lost in 2019 to Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) candidate Hanuman Beniwal, who was an alliance partner of NDA. In Nagaur, which is called the jatland of Rajasthan for the dominance of the jat community here, RLP, which is seen as a jat party, might turn the uncle-niece contest into a triangular one.
In the Khetri constituency of Jhunjhunu district, Dharampal Gurjar, his brother and former MLA Dataram Gurjar and Dataram’s daughter Manisha Gurjar were in the race for a ticket from the BJP. After Dharampal Gurjar was picked by the BJP, Manisha rebelled and joined Congress, which gave her the party ticket from the seat. This has pitted the niece against her uncle.
Manisha’s father, Dataram Gurjar, had become a BJP MLA in 2003. She is the head of the Khetri Panchayat Samiti. She had wanted to contest the Smiti elections on the BJP ticket but the BJP picked Dharampal’s wife Poonam Gurjar. Manisha defeated her aunt with the support of the Congress. Manisha has now been chosen by the Congress over its sitting MLA Dr Jitendra Singh which underscores her importance in the constituency. However, many Congress workers are not happy with Manisha being chosen as the party candidate.
(With inputs from TOI and PTI)
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