The Rajput community in poll-bound Rajasthan appears set to throw up a fractured mandate with royal families being wooed by both the Congress and the BJP. At a time when several prominent faces from the major royalties are making the cut to central ministers,the BJPs state unit too is trying to reach out to the community by roping in prominent Jaipur royal Diya Kumari and shooter Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore,a Rajput from Bikaner.
Eye on Rajput votes,BJP inducts Rajyavardhan,Jaipur royal
Considered traditional BJP voters following the abolition of the privy purse and antagonised by several initiatives of Indira Gandhi,the royals of Rajasthan have had many shifting sides since. Today prominent royals such as Chandresh Kumari (elder sister of Jodhpur maharaja Gaj Singh),Bhanwar Jitendra Singh of Alwar,and Ijyaraj Singh of Kota are considered particularly close to Rahul Gandhi.
Chandresh Kumari,married into the royal family of Himachal Pradesh,earlier contested and won from Kangra but in the 2009 parliamentary elections was given a ticket from Jodhpur. She is now a minister of state. Sources close to her family say Gaj Singh,who was a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha in the late 1990s during Bhairon Singh Shekhawats tenure in Rajasthan,was asked by his mother to give undiluted support to Kumari when she contested. Gaj Singh,popularly known as Bapji,continues to wield authority in Marwar and his backing helped Kumari to a thumping victory. But Vasundhara Raje of the BJP,on a recent visit to Jodhpur,was seen breaking bread with Singh and is expected to garner his support.
Lakshyaraj Singh,son of Arvind Singhji Mewar of Udaipur,is considered a close aide of Congress MP C P Joshi. Lakshyaraj is an office-bearer of the Rajasthan Cricket Association that Joshi heads and has been making public appearances with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. His wedding,slated early next year with Nivritti Kumari,princess of Bhubaneswar and daughter of senior Orissa BJP leaders Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo and Sangeeta Kumari,has given rise to speculations that it would soften the familys stand towards the BJP. Lakshyaraj,however,has shown such indications yet.
The BJP has MLA Siddhi Kumari of the Bikaner royal family,Rohini Kumari of Karauli and newly inducted Diya Kumari. A senior Rajput leader says these royals defy the communitys reverence for patriarchy and are seen as daughters who have taken over in the absence of a male heir. Diya Kumaris father,Bhawani Singh,had fought the parliamentary elections from Jaipur in 1989 on a Congress ticket and lost.
Diya enjoys a strong following among the youth and women; she runs schools and NGOs working educating and empowering women. But when she married within her gotra,the Rajput community distanced itself from the family.
Giriraj Singh Lotwara,president of the Rajput Sabha,says,The community will not support Diya in the elections and this is the unified voice of the entire community. We will vote for the best candidate and not favour any particular party. It is a myth that Rajputs are traditional BJP voters. We are not.
Lotwara says representations have been made to both the Congress and the BJP with the community seeking a larger ticket share. Rajasthan has five Rajput MPs and 26 MLAs from the community. Rajputs in the state hold a 16 per cent vote share,of which not more than 4 per cent fall under OBC.
The two Jat royal families,of Bharatpur and Dholpur,too are divided between the Congress and the BJP. Vishvendra Singh of Bharatpur,once a BJP MP,shifted to the Congress in 2009. His wife,Divya Kumari,is an MLA.
BJP MLA Raje and her MP son,Dushyant Singh,heir in the Dholpur royal family,have chosen to contest from Jhalawar.