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Rajasthan polls: The curious case of Siddhi Kumari

Vasundhara Raje at the last minute,beat a minority Congress candidate by 37,653 votes in the 2008 Assembly elections.

Written by Sweta Dutta | Bikaner |
November 13, 2013 5:51:51 am

Empty party offices could come to haunt politicians in election season but Bikaner East MLA and erstwhile royalty Siddhi Kumari is anything but worried. Unlike her Jaipur royal family contemporary Diya Kumari,who went in a mammoth rally to file her nomination,Siddhi walked to the returning officer’s chamber Saturday afternoon with what can barely be called a crowd.

Good faith and curiosity about her had helped Siddhi,who was roped in by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje at the last minute,beat a minority Congress candidate by 37,653 votes in the 2008 Assembly elections.

Much water has flown under the bridge since. A joke is back in town that Siddhi enrolled her name in the electoral rolls only after she was given a ticket. The elected district working committee of the BJP persistently complained to Raje that Siddhi and her Bikaner West counterpart Gopal Joshi remained absent from their constituencies for most of their tenure and should not be considered for a ticket this year. Several members of the committee told The Indian Express that Siddhi was distant,refused to attend local functions and did not take calls from party workers.

However,Raje dismissed the committee of 121 members and repeated the two sitting legislators. As a result,the party is left with no elected worker in these constituencies,though a few have chosen to drift back to Siddhi and Joshi in the last couple of days.

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“We gave in writing to the election committee and Raje that Siddhi did not come to the zila office even for a day in the last four years. She did not even take our calls,” said a committee member.

Siddhi,however,rubbished the claims and said,“There was no issue with me. It was because of some other reason.” She maintained that she cleared several public projects. “I have my own method of working. It is issue-based agenda,say hospital,education,women empowerment.”

Asked whether she understands the caste equations in the constituency,Siddhi said,“I am a world citizen.”

She is not even sure who her Congress opponent was the last time or who has been given a ticket this election. “I am going into it (the election) with the goodness of my heart.”

Siddhi is facing one from her own camp,Gopal Gahlot,who jumped ship to the Congress after going unheard in the BJP. Gahlot lost the mayoral election but over time went up the ranks in the party and holds formidable control over Mali,minority and even the Jat votebank. He has also strengthened Congress candidate from Bikaner West BD Kalla’s position as the former’s house and office are in the western part of the town where he has a considerable following. Kalla faces Joshi.

BJP holds four of the seven seats in Bikaner district. Two are held by Congress and one,Nokha,by an independent,Kanhaiya Lal Jhawar. Jhawar has already covered every single house in Nokha,say locals. He will take on Rameshwar Dudi of the Congress and Sahi Ram Bishnoi of the BJP. Jhawar had defeated Dudi last election.

In Kolayat,seven-time MLA Devi Singh Bhati of the BJP faces new entrant Bhanwar Singh Bhati of the Congress,a low-profile sarpanch. Bhanwar Singh’s father Raghunath Singh Bhati had earlier lost to Devi Singh by a thin margin. Post the delimitation of 2008,the constituency has changed and this election could throw up a surprise.

In Khajuwala,Vishwanath Meghwal,sitting BJP legislator,is being fielded yet again opposite Govind Chouhan,who lost the last time as an independent by a margin of 600 votes. Chouhan is now a Congress candidate.

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