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Delhi
Tuesday, September 28, 2021

TALE OF A CM’s SON IN THE DESERT

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Jodhpur city sits on the edge of the Thar Desert. Nestling within small outcroppings of isolated hills, the city has a distinctive look about itself. All buildings used to be built from the red sandstone found in abundance around Jodhpur. The tradition has persisted. Though the buildings are mostly stone and concrete, the facing is invariably of the Jodhpur Red Sandstone. Inundated by sunlight for nearly 325 days out of 365 in a year, it is also called the Sun City. Nourished by drinking water from the Himalayas through the Indira Gandhi Canal, the city also boasts of another transformative project of cutting edge farming – the Date Palm Tissue Culture project, which is now greening the desert.

The city was in the limelight for a different reason. Added to the 45 degree heat was the heat of a capital electoral contest – between a sitting Central minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and Vaibhav Gehlot, whose only distinction is that he is the son of the present CM of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, who also happens to be an MLA from Sardarpura constituency of Jodhpur city. Buoyed by the performance of Congress in the Vidhan Sabhā elections in December 2018, more so in the Jodhpur parliamentary constituency, Ashok Gehlot reckoned this to be the proper time for his son to cut his teeth in electoral politics. Looks like his calculation has misfired badly.

Before 2009, Jodhpur was a Jat dominated constituency. In the delimitation after 2004 elections, 3 Jat assembly segments of Bilara, Bhopalgarh and Osian went to Pali PC, even as Rajput dominated Lohawat, Shergarh and Pokaran got added to the new Jodhpur constituency, two of which – Pokaran and Lohawat – were newly carved assembly constituencies. This made the constituency heavy on Rajputs, and Shekhawat had won by 4.10 lakh votes in the Modi wave season. The Jats added one more grievance against Ashok Gehlot in their already overflowing quiver of grievances against Ashok Gehlot. Jats have held Ashok Gehlot responsible for the decline of their influence in Jodhpur. As the campaign unfolded, Ashok Gehlot realised that his son was up against it. Besides Rajputs (6.5%) and Jats (14%) combining, Brahmins who form nearly 12% of the electorate also went against Vaibhav Gehlot. Ashok Gehlot is known to be against the upper castes and Jats, and pro-OBC. However, he was up against Modi and the subterranean current operating for Modi across caste lines ensured that there would not be any succour for the father and son duo this time. Realising this, Ashok Gehlot threw caution to the wind, and spent almost all of his time in Jodhpur. Senior Gehlot passed over the entire campaign in Rajasthan and held nearly 400 street-side meetings, but to no avail.

Adding to his woes, BJP craftily got into an alliance with Hanuman Beniwal of BJP who has great influence among Jat youth and Meghwals. He played his part in uniting the Jats with Rajputs, creating a formidable force against the aspirations of Gehlot junior.

Come the Election Day, Vaibhav was sunk by the Modi Tsunami completely. None of the fabled magic skills of Ashok Gehlot could rescue a spluttering campaign. Out of the eight assembly segments, Vaibhav could get a lead only in his father’s constituency, Sardarpura. He has gone down heavily in the desert constituencies of Shergarh, Phalodi and Lohawat. He has gone down heavily in the Jat-Bishnoi-Kalbi dominated Luni constituency. He has also gone down moderately in the Jodhpur city, and Soorsagar constituency, as also in the Pokaran segment in Jaisalmer district. Even the heavy turnout of the 12% Muslims could not save the sinking ship of the Gehlot junior. He is not only losing to Gajendra Singh, but also possibly losing big.

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