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Rajasthan Congress in serious quandary as seniors stay off Lok Sabha poll battleground

Congress faces a curious situation in Rajasthan this time as the keenly-awaited Lok Sabha election nears. While party veterans and big names have thrown their hats into the electoral ring in other states, Congress bigwigs are so far conspicuous by their absence when it comes to Rajasthan.

For example, Digvijaya Singh and Bhupesh Baghel have announced their candidature in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, respectively. But in Rajasthan, despite clamour from grassroots, bigwigs like Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and Jitendra Singh have stayed away from the poll race, a ToI report said on April 6.

This has left the Congress party with no option but to depend on much lesser-known faces, and in some case, even debutants.

In Jodhpur, the Congress has chosen Karan Singh Uchiyarda over Ashok Gehlot to challenge BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Despite Gehlot’s history of targeting the Union minister on corruption, his son Vaibhav has shifted to Jalore-Sirohi. This move leaves a clear path for Shekhawat in Jodhpur, where Gehlot could have had an advantage. The decision has surprised party members who believe Gehlot could have posed a stronger challenge. The battle in Jodhpur now appears to have shifted in favour of the BJP leader.

Ex-deputy CM Sachin Pilot faces a deadlock in Dausa and Tonk-Sawai Madhopur. He has refrained from contesting in these Gurjar-dominated areas known for his influence. Congress has put forward Murari Lal Meena in Dausa and Harish Chandra Meena in Tonk-Sawai Madhopur. Though Pilot is seen as a potential vote-getter for the party, he has chosen not to stand in these constituencies.

Alwar royal Bhanwar Jitendra Singh has also exited the poll arena, leaving the party to field Lalit Yadav against Union minister Bhupender Yadav in the upcoming elections.

Former Union minister CP Joshi is the only big name so far to have joined the election race — in Bhilwara. He too had stayed away till the last minute. The party’s original candidate for Bhilwara, retired RPS officer Damodar Gurjar, was shifted to Rajsamand seat after Sudarshan Rawat’s withdrawal.

Congress seniors that have stayed away have cited larger organisational duties, ToI’s report said.

At the recent Congress central election committee meeting for Rajasthan in New Delhi, former CM Gehlot was notably absent. Despite this, the committee decided to field his son Vaibhav from Jalore instead of Jodhpur, as per Gehlot’s preference. This move was discussed during the meeting, where both Gehlot and Pilot were present as special invitees.

Pilot seems to have withdrawn from the election race due to his duties as the general secretary in-charge of Chhattisgarh. He has reportedly informed Congress leadership that he will focus on strengthening the party’s position in four seats in east Rajasthan and enhancing the tally in Chhattisgarh instead of personally contesting the polls, the newspaper reported citing sources.

The party has also faced embarrassment as it fielded newcomers without proper background checks. In Jaipur, Congress had to drop Sunil Sharma after protests over his link with ‘The Jaipur Dialogues’, a right-wing forum known for ‘Gandhi-bashing’.

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