Tricky community equations hold key to Barmer seat
Barmer: Former BJP leader Jaswant Singh fighting his last election as an independent candidate from here has given the contest between BJP and Congress a third dimension, which may prove crucial given the caste equations dominating the region.
With over 16 lakh voters and spread over two districts Barmer and Jaisalmer, the constituency, bordering Pakistan, is considered to be one of the largest in the country. It goes to polls on April 17.
Jats are the most dominating caste in the region with over three lakh votes, followed by Rajputs with over 2 lakh votes. Approximately 1.6 lakh votes are held by scheduled caste and tribal populations in the region.
There is a sizable presence of Sindhi and Muslim community, which has a little over 2 lakh votes in the region.
Scheduled caste and minority voters are believed to be traditional voters of the Congress, which has won nine of total 15 parliamentary elections held here.
Congress and BJP have placed their bets on Jat candidates which may split the votes of the most dominant community of this seat, helping 76-year old Singh who is likely to be favoured by Rajputs and minority communities.
BJP has fielded three times MP Col (Retd) Sonaram Chaudhary who won the seat in 1996, 1998 and 1999 on Congress ticket. He joined BJP just a few days back.
Chaudhary, who lost in the last assembly elections, switched sides. He had blamed the then Congress district president for his defeat.
Congress has stuck to its sitting MP Harish Chaudhary who had defeated Jaswant Singh`s son Manvendra in 2009.
Chaudhary, a young face who has been a student leader in the region, has a good report card. He had spent all his MP funds for various works in the constituency.
In the 2013 assembly elections, BJP has swept seven of the eight seats coming under the Parliamentary constituency while only one seat went to Congress` kitty.
The entry of Jaswant Singh has given the contest an interesting twist. Singh, a prominent Rajput face, is relying on his ancestral links with the region and minority votes.
The split of Jat votes with a possible consolidation of Muslim and Rajput votes behind Singh could provide him with a strong tailwind.
Singh, a Thakur from Jasol village of the district, is contesting from this seat for the very first time.
His decision to serve his birthplace before taking a bow from active political life did not go down well with BJP, which denied him the ticket. This is likely to fan a sympathy wave for Singh.
As an External Affairs Minister, he helped a number of Muslim and Rajput families travel to Pakistan to attend their relatives across the border. He continued to address such requests for help even after demitting office.
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