Election 2019

Caste likely to trump party in this constituency

In the changed poll dynamics after the exit of Manvendra Singh, son of BJP veteran and former Union Minister Jaswant Singh, and his candidature from the Congress, the Lok Sabha election in the Thar’s Barmer constituency has turned into a tussle between major castes. The local issues in the border area have surprisingly taken a back seat.

Mr. Singh, 54, was elected to the Lok Sabha on a BJP ticket in 2004. He, however, lost to Harish Chaudhary of the Congress in 2009. Mr. Singh later switched to Congress before the 2018 Assembly elections only to lose from Jhalrapatan, where he was fielded against then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

This time he is pitted against the BJP’s Kailash Chaudhary. Mr. Chaudhary represented Baytu in the Rajasthan Assembly but was defeated in the 2018 polls.

Geographical spread

Barmer, comprising eight Assembly segments of Barmer district and one of adjoining Jaisalmer district, is geographically the second largest Lok Sabha constituency in the country after Ladakh. Among the 19.50 lakh voters at the seat, Jats and Rajputs have traditionally contested for political power, while the Bhil tribals, Meghwal Dalit community, and Muslims have made their presence felt during elections in the past.

As the Lok Sabha election is set to decide the future of political heavyweights, the dilemma among Rajputs for shifting their support is visible across the political spectrum. BJP’s Sheo block unit president Poor Singh Rathore says the Rajput voters will support Mr. Singh irrespective of their political ideology.

“Rajputs have no other option. Mr. Jaswant Singh’s family commands the highest respect in the community,” Mr. Rathore told The Hindu.

The BJP workers are also visibly unhappy with the party’s alliance with Rashtriya Lokantrik Party, which has resulted in the Nagaur ticket going to the RLP president Hanuman Beniwal. Local BJP leaders have avoided being seen with Mr. Beniwal during his recent visit to the city and did not share the dais with him at a public meeting.

A former member of the BJP, Mr. Beniwal was suspended in 2013 after his allegations of corruption within the party. He founded the RLP in 2018 and currently holds the Khinvsar Assembly seat.

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