Priest, ex-royal battle it out in Alwar

Balaknath’s is a disciple of Mahant Chandnath, who won from Alwar in 2014 on a BJP ticket defeating Jitendra Singh by a huge margin of over 2.83 lakh votes. He passed away a few years later.

The Alwar constituency of Rajasthan — infamous for three alleged lynchings of dairy farmers over suspicions of cow smuggling — is set to witness a tough battle between erstwhile royal and former Union minister Bhawar Jitendra Singh and Mahant Balaknath of the Rohtak-based Asthal Bohar Math.

The Congress may have won Lok Sabha bypolls in February 2018 but Lok Sabha elections are tricky for both parties. Fifteen months ago, Congress candidate Karan Singh Yadav (72) defeated BJP candidate Jaswant Singh Yadav (64).

But this time, the Congress has fielded son of the soil and ex-royal, Bhawar Jitendra Singh, against BJP's debutant Mahant Balaknath.

Balaknath’s is a disciple of Mahant Chandnath, who won from Alwar in 2014 on a BJP ticket defeating Jitendra Singh by a huge margin of over 2.83 lakh votes. He passed away a few years later.

Congress is banking on Schedule caste, Muslims and also trying to make inroads in the Yadav vote bank who has traditionally been supporters of BJP. The Congress is trying to woo the community with the help of Baljeet Yadav who after winning the assembly elections recently became an associate member of the Congress and pledged his support to the party. However, the fight has become triangular with Imran Khan of the BSP also contesting and pinning hopes on minority and SC/ST votes. 

Polarising voters 

On Balak Nath's campaign trail, especially in rural Alwar, one can hear the mention of cow, temples, Balakot airstrikes, Modi and Yogi. He also doesn't leave any chance to play the caste card.

"Do serve the temples like Vaishya community does," says Balaknath, dressed in a saffron robe, in one of his speeches trying to influence the SC/ST voters of that village. So far, BJP chief Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath have campaigned for him. 

Meanwhile, Jitendra Singh is leaving no stone unturned to make people trust the Congress manifesto. Dressed in a white kurta-pyjama and a colourful turban, Singh mentions Congress' NYAY, and Rahul Gandhi's vision of bringing GST to ensure simplified tax for each farmer and citizen.

Mounting an attack against Balaknath in almost every gathering he addresses, he says, "He is an outsider and is not familiar with the place and its issues. He has no blood or soil relation with Alwar. Whereas, I am a son of this soil."

In last December's Assembly polls, Congress swept three of eight seats in Alwar, BSP won two and BJP won two while Independents won two. In comparison, BJP had won seven out of eight seat in 2013 owing to Modi wave. 

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