At a time when the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc across the country, the Election Commission is going ahead with bye-elections for vacant Assembly seats across several states including in Rajasthan.
Notably, the Rajasthan government has imposed a weekend curfew from Friday, whereas the bye-elections are scheduled on Saturday. The bye-elections will be held for Sahara (Bhilwara district, Rajsamand (Rajsamand district) and Sujangarh-SC (Churu district). Out of them, only the Rajsamand seat was won by the BJP in the 2018 Vidhan Sabha election, while the remaining two seats were won by the Congress.
Congress has an edge in Rajasthan bypolls
Congress, as the ruling party, is enjoying an edge, while the main Opposition BJP is facing infighting in all three seats over the selection of the candidates. The Congress is thriving on the sympathy wave as it fielded Gayatri Devi, wife of deceased Congress MLA Kailash Trivedi from Sahara and Manoj Meghwal, the son of late minister Bhanwar Lal Meghwal, from Sujangarh. The BJP has fielded Dipti Maheshwari, the daughter of Kiran Maheshwari, a minister in Vasundhara Raje’s cabinet who had won the seat in the last election from Rajsamand. The Congress has fielded Tansukh Bohra against Maheshwari.
In Sahara, Gayatri Devi is facing Ratan Lal Jat, the BJP candidate who served as a minister once in Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s cabinet. He is thriving on a large number of Jat community votes. But Jat could not campaign much as he tested COVID positive.
Bypoll in Sahara
In Sahara, the role of Ladu Lal Pitaliya is very important as this textile and garment merchant has a good following in the constituency. He was in the race for a BJP ticket, but was denied the ticket by the saffron party. In the 2018 elections, he contested the polls as an Independent candidate and secured 30,000 votes that led to the defeat of the BJP candidate. He was a strong contender this time for the party’s nomination.
He was pursued by the party to support Jat, but Pitaliya did not take part in active campaigning and it is said that an annoyed Pitaliya would see the defeat of the BJP candidate as revenge against the party. The drinking water problem remained the major issue of the campaigning.
Bypoll in Rajsamand
In the neighbouring Rajsamand, Dipti Maheshwari enjoys an edge, but the critical remarks made by the senior BJP leader and the leader of opposition Lal Chand Kataria against Maharana Pratap invited the wrath of the Rajput and the Rawat community.
The remarks by Kataria caused immense damage to Dipti Maheshwari who was getting a good response from the electorate as her mother was a popular leader of the region. Drinking water, pollution from mining and demand for a medical college were issues that cropped up during the campaigning.
Manoj Meghwal hopes to win in the Sujangarh (reserved) seat on a sympathy vote. His father was a minister in the cabinet of Ashok Gehlot. Manoj’s opponent is Khemaram Meghwal, who also served as a minister in the cabinet of Vasundhara Raje. Better medical facilities and drinking water were the issues in the election campaign.
COVID-19 impact on Rajasthan bypolls
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress president avoided going for the campaigning because of COVID-19. The voters in the three by-elections would vote under strict COVID-19 protocols.
A surge in infections and deaths has been reported from the three constituencies. Rajsamand reported 247 fresh COVID-19 cases, Sahara 332 and in Sujangarh 32 new cases. The surge is likely to affect the polling percentage.
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