Considered a VVIP constituency in Rajasthan, Sardarpura is the home ground of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who is determined to complete his second hat-trick or sixth straight win in Assembly election to be held on 25 November. Gehlot’s Mali community calls the shots in the constituency from where he won with a margin of 45,597 votes in 2018. While the Chief Minister got 97,081 votes his BJP rival Shambhu Singh Khetasar could manage only 51,484 votes.
Voters from communities including Jat, Rajput, Mahajan, OBCs and minorities also influence the outcome of an election in the constituency. Since the constituency has been nurtured by Gehlot for over two decades, there is a belief that the voters here get the utmost attention of the state administration which serves them as their top priority. Since Gehlot remains in Jaipur for most of his time, his trusted party workers manage the show in his constituency. Development works are taken up on a priority in the constituency, especially road, health and education. Welfare schemes like pension, free electricity, free medicines and free smartphones are implemented with serious intent in the constituency to keep the CM’s voters happy.
The 2,48,214 voters in the constituency include 1,26, 893 men and 1,21, 821 women. Gehlot represented the seat for the first time in 1999 after winning a byelection. At that time, the seat was vacated by his Congress colleague Mansingh Devra to allow Gehlot, who had by then been sworn-in as the CM, to get elected to the Assembly.
Interestingly, Sardarpura voters have been loyal to Gehlot in Assembly elections but they always favour the BJP when it comes to Lok Sabha elections. In 2019, Gehlot’s son Vaibhav contested the Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat but in Sardarpura segment BJP polled more votes than the Congress. Jodhpur is considered important from a tourism point of view and the Sardarpura assembly seat includes parts of Mehrangarh, Umed Bhawan, Mandaur Garden and city areas.
Traditionally, the voters from the Mali community are considered to be BJP supporters but in Sardarpura the community gives more importance to their preferred candidate i.e. Gehlot, rather than the party they are supporting.
Gehlot’s father, Laxman Gehlot, was a magician who used to travel around the country to show his magic tricks and in this context the Chief Minister is often popularly referred to as “Jadugar” or magician.
Whether his magic would work wonders once again on election day on 25 November remains to be seen on 3 December, when the results would be announced. Gehlot himself is confident of breaking the jinx of no party being voted to power in two successive elections. In the previous elections, BJP candidate Shambhu Singh Khetasar has lost twice from the seat. Other BJP candidates who have been trounced by Gehlot over the years include Rajender Gehlot, Mahender Jhabak and Meghraj Lohia.
Vasundhara Raje Scindia, BJP’s chief ministerial face till the last Assembly elections, has been elected from Jhalrapatan Assembly constituency four times since 2003. The constituency is part of the Jhalawar Lok Sabha seat represented by Raje’s son Dushyant Singh.
Raje, along with Gehlot, is the only politician in Rajasthan who has never changed her constituency. The tag of being a VVIP seat and that too of a former chief minister draws a lot of media attention. Though Raje’s name is yet to figure in the list of BJP candidates for the November 25 elections, the seat is considered her pocket borough.
All flagship schemes of her previous government like the Rajshri Yojana for promoting education of the girl child, water-sustainability and free cereals have been extensively implemented here. These have also helped the constituency in Jhalawar district to stand out among the less progressive ones. In the 2018 elections, Raje beat Manvendra Singh of the Congress by 34,980. In 2013, the former CM beat Meenakshi Chandrawat of the Congress by 60,896 votes. Like most other seats, caste equations matter a lot in this constituency. Muslims, Rajputs, Brahmins and Gujjars are the dominant communities. Villages like Junapani and Harispura have a majority of the Banjara community that is a strong supporter of the BJP. In Singhania, 95 per cent of voters are Rajputs, a community whose members claim that they have been let down by the former CM. Raje’s free domestic power scheme and daytime supply of power for farmers were among the bonanzas that she is remembered for even though she is no longer the CM. Being a woman candidate, Raje has always been able to draw more women voters to polling booths in large numbers, despite the social restrictions prevalent in the state. Out of the total 2,90,782 electors, 1,48, 401 are men and 1,42, 381 are women.
Apart from being a former royal, she appeals to Jat and Gujjar voters due to the family roots of her husband and daughter-in-law in these communities. It remains to be seen if the BJP opts to give her a ticket this time and put its money on this old war horse that has weathered many a storm in the desert state.