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Village on the border pitch for Jaswant Singh
It is the last village on the Indo-Pakistan border, 85 km away from Barmer town, but not untouched by the bustle of hectic political activity in the constituency.
Dominated by Pakistani Hindu migrants, the village has been a traditional BJP supporter until rebel leader Jaswant Singh came into the poll fray as an independent.
The village, a microcosm of the border stretch, points to shifting loyalties – a discouraging trend for the BJP that has found most of its key workers backing out from the hustings, while the Opposition Congress has deliberately chosen to go slow in the constituency.
The village registered 4,500 voters in the recent assembly elections, out of which 3,600 cast their ballot in favour of the now suspended BJP legislator Manvendra Singh. As Manvendra’s father, former BJP veteran Jaswant is set to contest as an independent after being denied a ticket and Manvendra, too, is facing the heat from the party, the village headman Hindu Singh has issued a diktat to support Jaswant.
Chandra Bhutra, whose popular sweet shop is a meeting point for the villagers and where news flows in from across the border too, tells The Indian Express, “Despite being such a big guy, Manvendra is like a friend to the local youths. If that is his breeding, his father must be a great person too. Moreover, it was Jaswant Singh ji who had opened up the border and resumed the Thar Express. This time he promises a stoppage at Barmer. Who wouldn’t vote for him?”
The village, which is starkly divided into the prosperous Maheshwari and other forward communities on one end and the scheduled caste Meghwals on the other, echo the same feelings even in the thatched-roofed hutments. Kheta Ram, who runs a small general store and flaunts a Jaswant poster on it, says, “If Jaswant wins from Barmer, he might even go on to become the Prime Minister. He is not to be taken lightly. The ones who have wronged him will have to pay for it.” Pannu Ram, a neighbour, nods in agreement.
However, the BJP supporter Bheek Bharti questions Jaswant’s sudden attachment with Barmer. “If Jaswant was so connected to this constituency why did he never before contest from here?”Even as voices of dissent continue to ring in the village, BJP supporters fail to bring themselves together to accept Congress turncoat Col Sonaram.
Following BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s rally in Pachpadra, where he did not comment on Jaswant or Sonaram, residents feel even Modi has distanced himself from the poll battle here.