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Maharana, ‘Nathi ka Bada’, Art 370: Congress, BJP step up poll rhetoric

The by-elections are being seen as a prelude to the Assembly elections which will take place after two and half years and important also to gauge the public mood after the Congress government completing two years.

Written by Deep Mukherjee | Jaipur |
Updated: April 16, 2021 6:04:42 am
Pandharpur byelectionThe voting took place from 7 am to 7 pm. The counting will be held on May 2.

“The leaders of BJP, who are not loyal to Maharana Pratap, can’t be loyal to Rajsamand. You decide… Those who challenged your Maharana, we have to finish this BJP in Rajsamand.”

These words of Rajasthan’s Transport Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas resulted in loud applause from the audience in Rajsamand district on Thursday, which was also the last day for campaigning before the constituency votes for the Assembly by-elections scheduled on Saturday.

The other two seats where bypoll is to be held are Sahara in Bhilwara district and Sujangarh in Churu district.

Khachariyawas, who was once known as a close confidante of former deputy chief minster Sachin Pilot but sided with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot during last year’s political crisis, termed Gehlot as the “number one mukhyamantri” during his speech.

He assured the public that in the next two and half years, the work done by the Congress in the constituency will be more than what the BJP did in 17 years.

The Congress has been swift to cash in on the criticism that Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria is facing from the Rajput community after his comments on Maharana Pratap, wherein the senior BJP leader has been criticised for his language and also resulted in protests by Rajput outfits such as the Karni Sena.

Despite the fact that Kataria apologised for his comments and insisted that they were misread in the wrong light, in constituencies such as Rajsamand, which is a part of the erstwhile Mewar region once ruled by the 16th-century king, Congress leaders such as Khachariyawas are hoping to bring in Maharana Pratap’s legacy to chip away BJP votes.

Known as a stronghold of the BJP, the last time Congress won an Assembly election from the constituency was in 1998. The Rajsamand constituency was held by BJP MLA Kiran Maheshwari and after her death, the party has fielded her daughter Deepti from the seat while the Congress has fielded Tansukh Bohara.

After campaigning in the three seats — Rajsamand in Rajsamand district, Sahara in Bhilwara district and Sujangarh in Churu district — ended on Thursday, both the ruling Congress and opposition BJP are hoping to emerge victorious.

The by-elections are being seen as a prelude to the Assembly elections which will take place after two and half years and important also to gauge the public mood after the Congress government completing two years.

Just three days before Khachariwas’ fiery speech in Rajsamand, Kataria had cited the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir while urging the public to vote for the BJP.

“You want to go to the wedding procession of the Congress? Who gave birth to the stone-pelters because of the Article 370 of India? Why was Kashmir burnt? Why the sons of 40,000 mothers had to be martyred in 70 years? You have to answer this. Who gave the strength to break it (Article 370)? If we hadn’t got these 303 seats, the Narendra Modi government didn’t have this kind of majority, could we have broken Article 370?” Kataria had said in the rally on April 12.

He also cited the law against triple talaq brought in by the BJP government while campaigning for the party.

“Article 370 became history but no violence took place. Will you vote this party or will you support those who gave birth to stone-pelters?” said Kataria in a fiery speech.

The BJP too, is not letting go of any opportunity to confront the Congress over statements made by its leaders.

If Maharana Pratap has become an issue for the Congress to attack the BJP, the latter has found ‘Nathi ka Bada,’ an old Marwari phrase to corner the ruling party.

Recently, a video of state Congress president and education minister Govind Singh Dotasra went viral on social media, where he is seeing reprimanding a delegation of teachers who visited his house to hand him a memorandum.

In the video, Dotasra can be seen telling his staff to suspend the teachers if they have come to meet him without taking leave from the department and asking them whether they think that this was ‘Nathi ka Bada.’

A Marwari phrase named after a historical figure who was a famous philanthropist, the expression ‘Nathi ka Bada’ means a place which anyone can visit anytime and get unaccounted help/donation. Teachers’ associations have slammed Dotasra for his comments.

Addressing an election rally in Sujangarh on April 12, state BJP president Satish Poonia made it a point to mention this issue to target the Congress.

“Rajasthan’s farmers want justice, the youth want employment, the women want respect,” said Poonia at the rally in Sujangarh, while the audience raised the slogan “Nathi tere bade me (Nathi at your place)” after each sentence.

Poonia also urged the BJP supporters to raise their voice so that the slogan could reach Dotasra.

In Sujangarh and Sahara, the two seats which were held by the Congress, the party is hoping that sympathy among the voters for its candidates, who are family members of the two deceased Congress from the seats, will help it win the electoral battle. For Sujangarh, the Congress has fielded Manoj Meghwal, the son of late Master Bhanwarlal Meghwal, who was a cabinet minister before his death last year. He will take on Khemaram Meghwal, the BJP candidate.

The Sahara seat has also become interesting after Ladulal Pitliya, a BJP leader who had filed his nomination as an independent candidate withdrew it later, amid reports that he was pressurised to do so. Even though Pitliya later met state BJP leaders to signal that all was well, party insiders say that followers of Pitliya, who had considerable support in Sahara can adversely affect the electoral fortunes of the BJP and its candidate Ratan Lal Jat. The Congress has fielded Gayatri Devi from Sahara, who is the wife of its deceased MLA Kailash Chandra Trivedi.

Another factor that can affect the electoral fortunes of both parties is internal division. Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje hasn’t been visible during the campaigning.

Pilot and Gehlot, who had a public fallout last year did travel and address rallies together on March 30 when the Congress candidates filed their nominations. But ever since the campaigning in these three seats started, Pilot, who has visited states such as Assam and Kerala as a star campaigner of the Congress has been conspicuous by his absence in the campaigning for the by-elections.

The by-elections are set to take place on Saturday while the votes will be counted on May 2.

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