'Turncoat' candidates, Independent nominee spice up poll contest in 3 Rajasthan seats

Jaipur, April 22 (IANS): With voter turnout dropping by around 5 per cent during the first phase of Lok Sabha elections held in Rajasthan on April 19 as compared to 2019, both the Congress and the BJP are busy making all-out efforts to lure the voters for the 13 seats that will go to the polls in the second phase on April 26.

Three seats in the second phase are expected to witness tough contests, courtesy the fielding of 'turncoat' candidates who recently switched sides expecting election tickets.

Kota is one such seat where the Congress has fielded Prahland Gunjal against BJP's Om Birla.

Gunjal, who left the BJP and joined the Congress after being denied a ticket, was known to be close to former Chief Minister and senior BJP leader Vasundhara Raje. He enjoys a strong connection with the rural voters, while Om Birla is a strong face in the urban areas of Kota, known to be a BJP bastion.

In the Assembly elections held last year, Gunjal, contesting on a BJP ticket, was defeated by Shanti Dhariwal of the Congress by a thin margin. Dhariwal and Gunjal were known to be staunch opponents in Kota.

A few days after Gunjal joined the Congress, Dhariwal had asked him to apologise for the allegations of corruption he levelled against him while in the BJP. However, later Dhariwal publicly announced his support for Gunjal.

Now all eyes are on Kota to see if Dhariwal's backing helps Gunjal in the elections, as sources indicate that Dhariwal and Om Birla are good 'friends' who extend support to each other when needed.

Similarly, in Banswara, the contest has become interesting after the BJP fielded four-time Congress MLA Mahendrajeet Singh Malviya against Rajkumar Roat of the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP).

Malviya resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP a few days before the Lok Sabha elections that begun on April 19.

The Congress was finding it difficult to find the right candidate against Malviya, and hence formed an alliance with BAP which has fielded its convenor Rajkumar Roat from Basnwara.

However, the decision for alliance formation was made late, a day after the Congress gave the ticket to Arvind Damor, who refused to withdraw his nomination. He was subsequently expelled from the party for six years. The Congress has also directed all its workers to vote for the BAP nominee.

Now, the direct contest is between INDIA bloc candidate Roat and BJP's Malviya, while Damor is also in the fray on a Congress ticket.

Both Roat and Malviya enjoy strong followings among the tribals, making the contest even more interesting.

The third seat in question is Barmer, which will see a triangular contest involving Independent nominee Ravindra Singh Bhati.

Bhati was denied a ticket by the BJP during the Assembly elections from Sheo last year, which he contested and won as an Independent nominee. Now, the BJP has fielded Union Minister Kailash Chaudhary against Congress' Umedaram Beniwal in Barmer, while Bhati is contesting as an Independent candidate.

Beniwal was with the RLP before joining the Congress a few days before the Lok Sabha elections. He is being looked at as a strong candidature, especially after defeating senior Congress leader Harish Chaudhary by a thin margin of around 900 votes in the Assembly elections as an RLP nominee.

"Gunjal is going to give a tough fight to Om Birla and so will Beniwal in Barmer. Our alliance with BAP will work wonders," said Swarnim Chaturvedi, Rajasthan Congress General Secretary and party spokesperson.

The Vice President of the BJP's state unit, Narayan Pancheria, said, "The BJP is contesting the elections with an aim to build 'Viksit Bharat' by 2047. The voters trust our vision and have full faith in the Lotus symbol. We will win all the 25 seats in Rajasthan."



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Title: 'Turncoat' candidates, Independent nominee spice up poll contest in 3 Rajasthan seats

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