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Bharatpur: A battle of Dalits in the Jat belt of Rajasthan

BSP candidate Suraj Jatav may queer the pitch for Congress’ Abhijit Kumar Jatav

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 01, 2019, 12.18 PM IST
Vishvendra Singh
BHARATPUR: Bharatpur, a former Jat kingdom in eastern Rajasthan, is caught in an interesting tangle between two Dalits in this Lok Sabha polls — BJP’s Ranjeeta Koli, daughter-in-law of three-time parliamentarian Gangaram Ram, and Congress’ Abhijit Kumar Jatav, a retired revenue services (IRS) officer who is new to politics.

Going by the recent assembly elections, Jatav should have the upper hand as Congress and its ally RLD had won six out the eight assembly segments in this constituency, with BJP drawing a blank and BSP picking up two seats.

But political observers point out that the presence of BSP candidate Suraj Jatav may queer the pitch for Congress by making dent among Jatav voters.

Also, to win here, Congress will have to break the rivalry between Jats and Jatavs simmering ever since the 1992 Kumher massacre when dominant Jats set ablaze more than 300 houses of Dalit Jatavs.

“Caste equation doesn’t favour Congress’ Jatav candidate,” said Ramavatar Sharma, a political analyst, who represents a sizeable brahmin community in this region.

“While BSP’s Suraj Jatav will further cut into his votes, Jats too will hardly vote for him. This makes Sunita Koli’s task easier.”

Vishvendra Singh, an erstwhile ruler of Bharatpur and one of the three ministers from this Lok Sabha constituency in Ashok Gehlot’s cabinet, is campaigning hard among Jats, though. “This is a question of my prestige; please come forward and vote for Congress,” he pestered the crowd in a public meeting in Bharatpur.

The Bharatpur constituency — once represented by high profile Congress leaders such as Raj Bahadur, Rajesh Pilot, Natwar Singh and lately Vishvendra Singh — had turned into a reserved constituency for scheduled castes post 2008. Since then, Congress won it in 2009, and BJP in 2014.

BJP has replaced its sitting MP Bahadur Singh Koli with Ranjeeta Koli who is banking on the political legacy of her father-in-law. And the public doesn’t seem concerned about her modest formal education — she is a non-matriculate — even while she is pitted against a former bureaucrat.

“But public will definitely keep in mind the lacklustre performance of the sitting BJP MP Bahadur Singh Koli, who did nothing for the development of this region which lacks proper drinking water facilities and is haunted by acute shortage of job opportunities,” said Raj Kumar Vaid, a guide and ornithologist at the renowned Keoladeo bird sanctuary in Bharatpur.

He said even the world-famous sanctuary has been neglected. “Now that Vishvendra Singh is tourism minister, we expect activities and jobs to go up,” Vaid said. “The member of parliament too has to be on the same plank for overall development.”

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