Last Updated: October 25, 2023, 10:19 IST
At the far end of Eastern Rajasthan, bordering Madhya Pradesh, lies Jhalrapatan at a seven-hour drive from Jaipur. It is from here that Raje has been an MLA since 2004. Before that, she had represented the larger Jhalawar seat as an MP since 1989, before her son Dushyant Singh took over as the MP from 2004. This is a bastion for the Raje family, or as locals call it ‘Madam Ka Gadh’, with people across communities, like the Muslims, backing her.
However, there is some uneasiness among locals over Raje not being projected as the chief ministerial face of the BJP. Suleman Pata, who fought as an Independent in the past against both Raje and Dushyant Singh, says the BJP risks not coming to power if it does not project Raje. “She is the tallest leader BJP has, who is known across the state. Other BJP leaders like Rajendra Shekhawat or Diya Kumari have minimal appeal,” Pata says.
Near Khandiya Ka Talab, where locals come to take selfies at sunset, shop-owner Mehboob Khan says for him, Raje is the unquestioned leader.
“I am a Muslim and don’t approve of the BJP’s ways of communal politics in Rajasthan this time but I will always vote for Raje. She has developed Jhalawar with hospitals and educational institutions. I was surprised to see her name missing from the first list but it finally came now,” he says.
Tahir Ali points out how all four seats of Jhalawar were won by the BJP the last time too though the party lost in the state. In fact, Jhalawar was the only district in Eastern Rajasthan where BJP did a clean sweep with the rest of the region going mostly the Congress way. “BJP may not project her as the chief minister, but mukhyamantri wohi banengi,” Ali says confidently.
But some youngsters in the area say they want a change as, since their birth, they have only seen Raje as their representative.
“Go to the villages in Jhalawar and you will see that no development has taken place. A new leader as MLA and a new chief minister is needed in Rajasthan,” Kuldeep Singh, a young student, says.
Such opinions, however, are few and far between. Jhalrapatan is still rooting for its madam to become the chief minister again.