Rebels hold fort on Rajasthan poll pitch

Jaipur | Tonk: In December 2018, when Congress high command was mulling the thorny issue of choosing between veteran Ashok Gehlot and state unit president Sachin Pilot as chief minister, 10 of the 13 independents backed the party’s government ‘under Gehlot’.

As the difference between Congress and BJP’s vote share has reduced in successive assembly polls, independents, usually BJP and Congress rebels, have gained importance. In the run-up to November 25 polls, the focus is again on the number of Gehlot loyalists fighting against Congress’ official candidate. Sunil Parihar, considered close to the CM, is contesting as an independent from Siwana, from where Congress has fielded Manvendra Singh, former defence minister Jaswant Singh’s son. Former Jodhpur mayor and a close friend of Gehlot, Rameshwar Dadhich, quit Congress on being denied a ticket from Sursagar and joined BJP. Many feel that this could be an indication that BJP has an edge and Congress leaders have already sensed that.

About 20 rebels from Congress are openly challenging official candidates. All eyes are on Sheo seat in Barmer. It has become a hot seat where Rajasthan’s oldest candidate, 84-year-old Congress MLA Ameen Khan, is pitted against independent Ravindra Bhati and a Congress rebel Fathe Khanis. The seat is tough even for BJP candidate who is facing two rebels. In Rajgarh-Laxmangarh, Congress MLA Joharilal Meena was denied a ticket but is now fighting as an independent against the official nominee Mange Lal Meena. Ex-Congress minister Virender Beniwal is fighting as an independent from Lunkaransar against Congress’s Rajendra Moond.

BJP is facing a similar challenge. Rajya Sabha MP Kirori Lal Meena is pitted against BJP rebel Asha Meena in Sawai Madhopur. Vasundhara Raje Scindia loyalist Yunus Khan is fighting as an independent from Didwana.

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William Murphy

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