Ranging from royalty to daily labourer – 17 women candidates from diverse backgrounds are in the fray for the first phase of Lok Sabha polls in Rajasthan but all eyes will be on Jhunjhunu seat that will witness as many as five women battle it out for electoral supremacy.
Of the 17 women contesting in 20 constituencies in the first phase, three sitting MPs, including two Congress Union ministers -Chandresh Kumari Katoch and Girija Vyas- hope to cash in on their work to secure victory at the hustings.
A total of 239 candidates are fighting in the first phase on April 17. Rajasthan, which has a total 25 constituencies,will witness the second phase of polls for five seats on April 24 for which the nomination process is on.
Union minister and Congress’ Katoch, who has assets worth over Rs 10 crore, is fighting to retain her Jodhpur seat. She bagged the seat in 2009 after defeating the then BJP sitting MP Jaswant Singh Bishnoi by over 98,000 votes.
Katoch, sister of the head of erstwhile Jodhpur royal family Gaj Singh, is said to have won last time mainly because of the support from her community. The situation, however,could be different time as BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat also enjoys a good grip in the region, analysts say.
The Jodhpur constituency, which had sent Ashok Gehlot to Parliament five times, is also being eyed by Independent candidates Mehmooda Begum and Jayda, who is an illiterate.
In Jhunjhunu, the five women in fray are BJP’s Santosh Ahlawat, Congress’ Raj Bala Ola, BSP’s Rahisa Bano, Megh Desham Party’s Urmila and Independent candidate Rajbala.
26-year-old Urmila, the youngest woman candidate in the fray, has mentioned herself as a labour, having a cash of Rs 20,000, in an affidavit submitted to the Election Commission.
Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Girija Vyas, also from Congress, is fighting to retain her position from Chittorgarh where two other women -CPI’s Radha Devi and Rajasthan Vikas Party’s Vijaya Ray — have thrown in hats.
Congress’ Jyoti Mirdha, who holds an MBBS degree and is the richest woman in the first phase of polls from the state,is the sitting MP from Nagaur that lies about midway between Jodhpur and Bikaner.
The grand daughter of Jat leader and six-time MP Nathuram Mirdha, Jyoti heavily banks on the name and reputation of her grandfather who died in 1996. In 2009, she had defeated BJP candidate Bindu Chaudhary with a margin of 1.55 lakh votes.
She faces a strong challenge from BJP candidate C R Chaudhary and Independent candidate and sitting MLA Hanuman Beniwal this time round.
Women constitute about 50 per cent of total 4.2 crore voters expected to exercise franchise from the border state.
BJP’s lone woman candidate and MLA Ahlawat is in the fray from Jhunjhunu, where Congress candidate Raj Bala is contesting after being ‘elected’ through primary,a pet project of Rahul Gandhi to strengthen grass-roots democracy.
Jat dominated Jhunjhunu having approximately 16.5 lakh voters is among the two constituencies in the state where Congress has selected LS poll candidates through primaries.
Raj Bala’s father-in-law and former Union Minister Sis Ram Ola, who died in December last year, had represented Jhunjhunu 5 straight times since 1996. He had defeated Ahlawat in 2004 Lok Sabha elections with a margin of 23,355 votes.
Raj Bala’s is expected to face a tough fight from Independent candidate and sitting MLA Rajkumar Sharma and former deputy Army Chief Lt Gen Raj Kadyan as AAP candidate.
Congress has fielded Munni Devi from Pali and Resham Malvia from Banswara-ST, taking its number of women candidates to six in the first phase of polls.
Other women candidates include Independents Anita Jain (Ajmer), Shimla Devi (Ganganagar) and Neeru Agrawal (Jaipur) from Nationalist Union Party.
Interestingly, polls in past have not been kind to womencandidates. In 2009 elections, 31 women candidates had contested on 25 seats but just three won.
From 1952 to 2009 LS polls, a total of 153 women candidates fought elections but only 27 got elected.
Former Rajmata late Gayatri Devi was elected three times in 1962, 1967 and 1971 whereas Krishna Kumari of Jodhpur royal family was also elected in 1971.