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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: In Rajasthan's Banswara seat, Congress campaigning against own candidate

After much flip-flop, the Congress decided to form an alliance with the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) and the two parties fielded their joint candidate— Rajkumar Roat. However, the Congress candidate, Arvind Damor, whose name was announced before the stitching of the alliance, has refused to withdraw his nomination.
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 07:09 IST
Last Updated : 24 April 2024, 07:09 IST

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Banswara: A peculiar poll battle is on the cards in the tribal-dominated Banswara-Dungarpur Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan where the Congress is appealing to the people not to vote for its candidate.

The reason: After much flip-flop, the Congress decided to form an alliance with the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) and the two parties fielded their joint candidate— Rajkumar Roat. However, the Congress candidate, Arvind Damor, whose name was announced before the stitching of the alliance, has refused to withdraw his nomination.

What was supposed to be a bipolar contest between the BJP and the Congress-BAP alliance has turned into a three-way fight with Damor likely to divide the Congress votes thus, giving an edge to the saffron party candidate— Mahendrajit Singh Malviya.

While the local leadership of the Congress has appealed to the people to vote for Roat instead of their own candidate, Damor has claimed that he has the support of a section of the party leaders who are against the alliance with the BAP.

Vikas Bamnia, a district-level leader, and the son of Congress MLA Arjun Bamnia said the party was supporting Roat.

“Our stand is clear, we are supporting the BAP candidate. We are working keeping in mind the sentiments of the people and the directions received from the party,” Bamnia said.

Another local Congress leader said Roat was the official candidate of the Congress-BAP alliance.

“We are asking people clearly to not vote for the Congress candidate (Damor),” the leader said.

Although, several local residents told PTI that the contest was primarily between Malviya and Roat, some were of the view that Damor's refusal to toe the party line was embarrassing for the Congress.

BAP, which was established in southern Rajasthan ahead of the 2023 assembly elections, has three MLAs, including Roat.

Banswara-Dungarpur is a reserved seat for Scheduled Tribes and will go to polls in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections on Friday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed a rally here on Sunday.

Slamming the Congress manifesto, he had alleged that the opposition party was planning to give people's hard-earned money to 'infiltrators' and 'those who have more children' and referred to former PM Manmohan Singh's speech in 2006 to contend he had said that Muslims have the “first claim” on the country's resources.

In his campaigning speeches, Malviya has accused Roat of misleading the people of Banswara while he, in return, has been charged with dividing the tribal community by the Congress-BAP candidate.

“Where will these people take our tribal brothers and sisters? They are misleading the tribal community. Building a house for one person does not benefit the entire community,” Malviya, who joined the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, said.

“These people are working to spread anarchy. No matter how much they try, the BJP is going to win this seat by lakhs of votes. The alliance of Congress and BAP will not work. It only shows that the Congress did not get a candidate for the Banswara-Dungarpur seat,” he added.

Countering Malviya, Roat said the BJP candidate was 'dividing' and abusing the tribal community.

“The kind of statements Malviya is giving... he is abusing the tribal community. The BJP is trying to divide the tribal community. Our tribal people may be associated with any party, be it the BJP or the Congress, but it is our responsibility to unite them. We think above the party, we think for the tribal people,” Roat said.

Damor, meanwhile, said a faction of the Congress leaders was against the alliance with BAP.

"I have support from the people and the party leaders who are not in favour of the alliance. I am confident of winning the election," Damor said.

Amid the tussle, key issues like education, employment, roads and electricity have taken a back seat with each candidate trying to outdo the other to project himself as the champion of the tribal community, according to some non-tribal locals.

A non-tribal resident asserted, "The area lacks industries and job opportunities. Many people from this region work in the neighbouring state of Gujarat. Women are also seen working in farms and in labour work in large numbers."

"The ideology of BAP appears to be radical and could emerge as a threat in the time to come. Issues are less important, they are polarising people in the name of the community," the resident added.

Meanwhile, the need for the Congress to find an alliance partner in Banswara-Dungarpur was necessitated after Malviya— a satrap from the Vagad region, joined the BJP.

Malviya, who was made a cabinet minister twice in the previous Congress governments, quit the party after being denied the post of the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly in the wake of Congress' defeat in the 2023 assembly elections.

He resigned as the MLA from Bagidora assembly constituency and joined the BJP in February.

As the Congress and the BAP— the new party from the Vagad region, held discussions for an alliance, the lack of consensus on seat sharing and resistance by some local Congress leaders delayed the finalisation of the coalition.

On the last day of filing of nominations, the Congress decided to field Damor from Banswara-Dungarpur and Kapoor Singh from the Bagidora for the bypoll.

A day before the withdrawal of nominations, Rajasthan Congress in charge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa announced on social media that the party would support BAP in both the elections.

However, in a rude shock for the Congress, its two candidates refused to withdraw their nominations.

Of the eight assembly segments under the Banswara-Dungarpur Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has four MLAs, the Congress has three and the BAP one. The Congress in Rajasthan is contesting the elections as part of an alliance on two seats— Nagaur (with Rashtriya Loktantrik Party) and Sikar (with CPI-M).

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Published 24 April 2024, 07:09 IST

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