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Rajasthan Assembly elections 2018: A look at Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, Congress heavyweights

The BJP has maintained that Vasundhara Raje will retain the chief ministership if the party wins the elections, while the Congress has said that a decision on its chief ministerial candidate will be taken after the results

Rajasthan Assembly elections 2018: A look at Bharatiya Janata Party BJP, Congress heavyweights

The Rajasthan Assembly elections is a direct contest between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. The polling in Rajasthan for the 200-member Assembly took place on 199 seats. The BJP has maintained that Vasundhara Raje will retain the chief ministership if the party wins the elections, while the Congress has said that a decision on its chief ministerial candidate will be taken after the results are declared on December 11. The Election Commission has postponed polls in Alwar's Ramgarh seat following the death of BSP candidate Laxman Singh.

BJP:

Col. Sonaram Choudhary:

A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and a member of the Lok Sabha, Col Sonaram Choudhary is contesting from the Barmer constituency against Congress MLA Mewaram Jain. A former armyman, Choudhary had left the Congress party to join the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He was preferred by the party leadership over veteran leader Jaswant Singh to contest the Lok Sabha elections, and he went on to win the seat.

The Barmer BJP MP was yet again embroiled in a controversy last month over his age. As per the details mentioned by Sonaram in the affidavits for the 2014 Lok Sabha and the upcoming Assembly elections, he has mentioned his age at 73. The affidavits are available on the election department's website. Sonaram had contested the 2008 Assembly elections from Baytu seat, in which he had mentioned his age at 65. In the 2013 state elections, his age, as per the affidavits, was 72.

Kalicharan Saraf

Rajasthan Health minister and BJP leader Kalicharan Saraf has been fielded from Malvia Nagar seat against state Congress vice president Archana Sharma. In 2013 assembly elections, Saraf won a total of 89,974 votes defeating Sharma who trailed with 41,256 votes. Earlier, Sharma had said, "Candidates are same but people will vote for the Congress on December 7 because there is high resentment among people against Saraf who is facing corruption charges and people are inclined towards Congress."

Saraf has been in the news this year on account of bribery charges, controversial remarks and urinating on Jaipur walls. A complaint had been filed against Saraf alleging him of taking bribe for giving recognition to a nursing college. A CD containing conversation between his son and other accused was given as proof.

In an embarrassment for the BJP government in Rajasthan earlier this year, a picture of Saraf urinating on the walls of Jaipur had gone viral. He, however, had shrugged it off, saying it was "not a big issue".

Saraf also courted controversy after a video surfaced in which he made a remark that employees having connections with people of influence have higher chances to be transferred to posts of their choice, according to news agency PTI. The minister said that people who have "approach" are given priority and those without are considered "weak links". The BJP leader made the comment after a government worker had sought a transfer.

Sambhu Singh Khetasar

Sitting BJP MLA Khetasar is contesting against Congress leader and former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot from Jodhpur's Sardarpura, a key seat in Rajasthan. In the 2013 elections, Gehlot had defeated BJP's Khetasar by 18478 votes.
 
Exuding confidence of winning the seat, the BJP candidate had said, "Gehlot had the only advantage of caste factor. Gehlot has an upper hand due to a caste-based vote bank. Apart from that, there is no charm of him. There is no other basis. He did not work for his constituency and also often remained absent in the assembly. The issue in the assembly remains the same and unaddressed and I am confident that the BJP will win the seat this time. Public sentiments are not with the Congress. Gehlot has neglected constituency"

Khetasar is the chairman of the State Seed Corporation and enjoys a ministerial status in the current BJP government.

The sitting MLA recently found himself in a soup when he was caught urinating in public in Ajmer. While BJP has been making efforts to make India open defecation free, Khetasar was caught in the act. However, defending his act, the minister said that that urination alone doesn't contribute to uncleanliness.

Khetasar, who was spotted relieving himself near a wall that had a poster of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said, "There was a wall and some posters stuck at some distance on it. I had not paid attention. It is not right to urinate in open but it`s a natural call. Urinating in a crowded area is wrong."

Vasudev Devnani

Vasudev Devnani is currently holding the portfolio of the Minister of State (MoS) for primary and secondary education in Rajasthan. He is contesting against Congress leader Mahendra Singh Ralawta from the Ajmer North constituency. In 2003, the senior BJP leader was elected to the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly from Ajmer North constituency. He obtained a total of 45 per cent votes. He was also subsequently elected in 2008 and 2013.

Earlier during the tenure of Raje from 2003-2008, he was holding the portfolio of the Minister of State (MoS) for technical education.

He started his career at a young age with the RSS and later Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of RSS. After 9 years he joined the BJP.

After the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Devnani had said that milestones achieved during his regime would be included in school textbooks in Rajasthan from the next academic session.

Devnani had written to the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education-Ajmer to start the process of scrutinising the contents and highlighting them in school textbooks.

The directions were given on August 18 and a committee of experts will take up the task. Apart from highlighting the achievements of Vajpayee, who died on August 16, the minister is also considering to make available biography of Vajpayee in selected libraries of every district.

Earlier in 2015, Devnani had stirred row after saying that Isaac Newton, Pythagoras and Akbar should be done away with. In 2016, he declared that changes should be made in the school curriculum and included the biographies of freedom fighters.

Vasundhara Raje

The 13th Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje won the 2013 elections from the Jhalrapatan Assembly constituency for the BJP defeating Congress leader Meenakshi Chandrawat by a huge margin of 60,896 votes. She had previously served the post from 2003 to 2008, and since 2013 till the present and is the first woman to hold the post.

As she battles anti-incumbency in the state, she has also filed nomination from the seat again to contest the polls. The Congress has fielded Manvendra Singh to fight against her on the seat in 2018.

In the mid-eighties she became the vice-president, of the Yuva Morcha BJP in Rajasthan. From the early-nineties till mid-2003, Raje was holding several portfolios in several ministries of the state.

On December 14, 2003, she became the Rajasthan BJP president. She was the chief minister of Rajasthan from December 8, 2003 to December 8, 2008. After losing in 2008, she was the leader of opposition in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly from January 2, 2009 to December 8, 2013.

In its second list of 32 candidates announced, the Congress fielded Singh who is a former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and son of veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh, in a big jolt to the saffron party.

Yoonus Khan

The BJP has fielded only one Muslim candidate, Yunus Khan, for the Rajasthan Assembly elections. The saffron party's candidate, Khan, who is the state transport minister, has been fielded from Tonk constituency, where state Congress president Sachin Pilot is contesting.

A sitting MLA from Deedwana constituency of Nagaur district, was kept reserved by the party till the last moment. After the Congress fielded Pilot from the Muslim-dominated constituency, the BJP replaced sitting MLA Ajit Singh Mehta, who figured in an earlier list, and announced Khan's candidature.

Dominated by Muslims, Tonk is one of the keenly watched constituencies and both Pilot and Khan are outsiders for the constituency.

Khan, a two-time MLA, was keen to contest from his present Deedwana constituency but his name was not announced in four lists till November 18. When the Congress announced Pilot's name on November 15, the BJP changed its strategy and asked Khan to contest from Tonk and declared his candidature on November 19, on the last day of filing nominations.

CONGRESS:

CP Joshi

The former Union minister is the Congress candidate from Nathdwara Assembly constituency. The senior Congress leader is contesting against BJP leader Mahesh Pratap Singh from the constituency.

He was the MP from Bhilwara in the 15th Lok Sabha and fought the Lok Sabha elections held in 2014 from Jaipur (Rural) seat. In spite of being a first-time member of the Lok Sabha, Joshi was one of the first 19 members of India's new cabinet sworn in on May 22, 2009.

As Rajasthan cabinet minister he was entrusted with several portfolios. He was appointed as president of the Rajasthan Congress in 2003. In 2009, he was the Union Minister Development and Panchayti Raj.

Recently he had courted controversy for his casteist remark at Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Joshi had reportedly said that Modi, BJP MP Uma Bharti and Hindu activist Sadhvi Ritambhara are from "lower castes" and know nothing of Hinduism. He said it is the Brahmins who are learned and know of Hinduism. The Election Commission had served a notice to Joshi for alleged violation of code of conduct over his remarks. The notice was served by the returning officer of Rajsamand district following a complaint by the BJP. Later, Joshi had tendered an apology. 

The senior Congress leader had also said that Congress will build a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court's verdict on the matter. "The BJP is misleading people by raking up the Ram temple issue in the election season, even though the matter is pending before the Supreme Court. The Congress will build a grand temple after the apex court's verdict on the matter. It is a civil suit and a decision will be given by the Supreme Court," he had said. Joshi also questioned the idea of building a temple based on an ordinance when the issue of "land title is not clear".

Girija Vyas

The former Union minister is the Congress candidate from Udaipur Assembly constituency and is contesting the polls against senior BJP leader Gulab Chand Kataria.

72-year-old Vyas is also the former National Commission for Women chief and she is back to her seat after a span of more than three decades. The senior Congress leader is facing Kataria, who has has won the seat five times since 1977.

In the 2014 Chittorgarh parliamentary constituency(general) elections, BJP's Chandra Prakash Joshi won the seat with 7,03,236 votes and Vyas trailed with 3,86,379 votes.

In the early eighties, she was elected as an MLA from Udaipur and had served the state till 1990. The next year, she was appointed as a Deputy Minister (Information and Broadcasting) in the Narsimha Rao ministry.

In the early nineties she held the portfolios of several ministries. In 1996, she was re-elected to the second term of the 11th Lok Sabha and in 1999 to third term of the the 13th Lok Sabha. Till the early 2000s she held several portfoilo. She was also the president of the Rajasthan Provincial Congress Committee from 2001-2004.

In February 2005, she chaired the NCW and held the position till August 2011. Vyas was also elected as an MLA in 2008. She was the Minister of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation from 2013-14.

Manvendra Singh

The Congress has fielded former BJP MLA Manvendra Singh from the Jhalrapatan constituency against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

Singh, who had won Barmer district's Sheo assembly constituency in 2013, joined the Congress in October after quitting the BJP in September. He is the son of former union minister and BJP leader Jaswant Singh.

Singh, 54, quit the BJP in September and joined the Congress in October after being sidelined within the ruling party, reportedly because of Raje's feud with his father Jaswant Singh, who was denied a BJP ticket in the last Lok Sabha polls.

Dubbed as an "outsider" and a "turncoat" by his opponents, Singh is set to counter these charges.

Manvendra Singh's wife, Chitra Singh, has also been working hard in the city, campaigning for her husband in a bid to win supporters. Rajput vote is crucial for both candidates and they have been trying to woo the community with outreach efforts.

After crossing over to the Congress, Manvendra had said that it was an "uphill task" to beat CM Raje in her political fortress of Jhalrapatan, but he was here to "fight and win" the election.

Rameshwar Lal Dudi: The Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, Rameshwar Lal Dudi, is the Congress candidate from the Nokha assembly seat. He will be fighting BJP's Bihari Lal Bishnoi who had unsuccessfully contested from Nokha in 2013 as an independent.

In 2013, Dudi had secured 70,801 votes against IND's Kanhaiya Lal Jhanwar who trailed with 40,007 votes. Dudi, a former MP, had himself led a fight over tickets after Jhanwar was replaced in Bikaner East constituency. Jhanwar was renominated from the seat following threats by Dudi of not contesting the polls. Incidentally Dudi in 2013 had won the Nokha seat defeating Jhanwar, who had contested as an independent.

A first-time legislator, he got elected from Nokha constituency in Bikaner district. He was previously a Congress MP and represented the Bikaner parliamentary seat in Lok Sabha from 1999-2004. Dudi was into politics at the Panchayati Raj level and was elected as a Pradhan in 1995 from Nokha. While being a Pradhan, he won the Lok Sabha election in 1999. He was an MP from Bikaner in 13th Loksabha (1999). 

Vying to retain Nokha constituency, farmer distress and unemployment are his focal points. He is known for his image of a leader fighting for the farmers` rights. 

Even as he asserted that "all was well" within party and there was no infighting, Dudi conceded the rebels contesting as independents was a matter of concern.

Sachin Pilot

The Rajasthan Congress chief, another probable chief minister candidate if Congress comes to power in the state, is contesting from the Tonk constituency. For the 2018 polls, BJP's Yoonus Khan has been fielded against Pilot for the seat. Incidentally, Pilot has never contested the state assembly polls.

The son of Rajesh Pilot, Sachin Pilot had earlier been an MP from Dausa in 2004. He won from Ajmer in 2009 Lok Sabha election defeating BJP's Kiran Maheshwari by a margin of 76,000 votes. He unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Ajmer in 2014 and was defeated by a margin of 1,71,983 votes by BJP's sitting MLA Sanwarlal Jat. He, however, did not contest the bye-election to the seat earlier this year.

On September 6, 2012, he became the first union minister to be commissioned as an officer in the Territorial Army.

Ashok Gehlot

The former Rajasthan chief minister and sitting Congress MLA Ashok Gehlot will contest the assembly elections from Sardarpura constituency against sitting BJP MLA Sambhu Singh Khetasar. In the 2013 elections, Gehlot had defeated Khetasar by 18478 votes. Gehlot will be contesting from the constituency in Jodhpur district for the fifth time. He was elected to the assembly from Sardarpura for the first time in a by-election in 1999.

He was the 12th chief minister of Rajasthan. Gehlot became the chief minister twice from December 1, 1998-December 8, 2003 and again from December 13, 2008-December 12, 2013. The senior Congress leader also held portfolios of several ministries of the state.

The 67-year-old leader is a silent worker but popular among the public and is considered close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

On the recent issue of the chief ministerial candidate of Rajasthan, Gehlot said that since independence the Congress has never declared its chief ministerial face in Rajasthan and the party is happy to carry on this tradition. He also asserted there is discipline in the party and all Congressmen will abide by the party leadership's decision.

If the Congress wins, it is expected to pick between Gehlot and Rajasthan party president Sachin Pilot for the top post in the state.