Shanti Devi is confused. Does she vote for the BJP and Congress nominees who were fielded because they are from the Scheduled Tribe Meena community to which she belongs? Or does she vote for sitting MLA Anju Devi Dhanka?
Shanti is not the only one. Hundreds of others denizens in the Dausa district are in a fix as to whom to vote for.
The Meena community, the influential tribal voters of east Rajasthan, plays a crucial role in who wins the reserved seats of the state.
The residents of Doobli village in the district complain that both parties are playing the caste card, leaving the village bereft of any development.
“We have a tradition of fighting for Independent candidates. But BJP chief Amit Shah promised a berth in the state cabinet for Kanhaiya Lal Meena during the campaign,” Shanti said.
Many believe that the bigwigs from their own community are misusing them. Harish Meena, who was BJP’s MLA and is a former DGP, jumped to the Congress after he was denied a ticket by the saffron party.
Kirori Lal Meena, a political firebrand, had left the BJP during the 2003 elections but is now back as the party’s Rajya Sabha member.
One member of the community, a BJP supporter at Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s campaign here upset about leaders jumping ship, told DH: “They misuse us. They know we will vote for a Meena. But swapping parties is our loss since ideologies differ.”
Harish Meena joining the Congress raises questions as to whether he could emerge as a new power centre. But many, from both the BJP and Congress, believe that for the community, it is the candidate that matters and not the party. “I believe the Congress is a party where I can perform better and they have a soft corner for ST community,” Harish told DH.
Both the Congress and BJP have played the Meena card in other seats by fielding fresh faces from the community.
Newbies Indra Meena, the wife of a school teacher, is the Congress candidate from Bamanwas; and Asha Meena, wife of a Rajasthan cadre administrative service officer, is the BJP candidate from Sawai Madhopur.
Kirori Lal Meena, who had lost the last Assembly election from Sawai Madhopur to erstwhile royal Diya Kumari, rubbished speculation about the community being divided due to all the politics.
“We are not divided. I lost to Diya in 2013 because there was a Modi wave. Now we are all together and campaigning for Asha Meena,” he said.
Currently, of the 36 seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the state, the BJP holds 32; of the 25 Scheduled Tribe seats, the party holds 19.