A keen contest is being played out among Rajputs in the land of Maharajas, forcing a politically adopted Himachal Pradesh princess to hold her ground against a comparatively young outsider Sekhawat in the Marwar region.
Union minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch, married in a Kangra royal family, draws her parental lineage from the erstwhile Jodhpur imperial family with her younger brother Gaj Singh occupying the Umed Palace.
She is trying hard to beat the anti-incumbency of the UPA government and the bickering state top leadership, which less than four months ago was instrumental in the wipeout of the Congress’ Ashok Gehlot administration.
She is one of the four royal candidates, contesting elections to ensure that even though principality may no more be a reality, succession will live on in politics. Others in the fray include Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant Singh, who represents the lone erstwhile Jat royal estate of Dholpur and is re-contesting from Jhalawar, and Congress MP and minister Bhavar Jintendra Singh from Alwar.
Katoch claims she brought several projects to her constituency. Two of them include extension of the Jodhpur airport and a science museum. However, she did not hide her apprehension when she said “it is high time I stood on my feet.” That realisation, however, is a little late in coming.
When asked why her brother Gaj Singh was not supporting her, the sitting MP said, “You better ask my brother about it. My mother came for the opening of my election office in the city. She is the head of the family. In the last campaign, he had to come out because the BJP had alleged I’m not his sister. Even in 1982, he came to Himachal Pradesh to work for me.” In the 2009 parliamentary elections, the royal heir did not hesitate to extend a helping hand to Katoch, who was brought to Marwar politics by then chief minister Ashok Gehlot, to contest from his own curated political borough.
However, the sweeping political defeat that the Congress faced in the December 2013 Assembly elections changed the political dynamics of the region. Of the eight Assembly segments that dot this parliamentary seat, seven were cornered by the BJP with the lone island of Sardarpura retained by Gehlot himself.
Pitched against “Baisa” (sister) Katoch is BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, drafted into the contest by Vasundhara Raje to put up a new face whose only election experience is of fighting a student union poll.
The BJP candidate, despite being a Rajput comes from the Sekhawati region and is banking more on the charisma of Raje and the Modi wave, says Nera Shastri, daughter-in-law of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and a BJP national executive member.