Amid paper leak issue, Rajasthan Congress chief put to test on home turf

Rajasthan Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

“I will not allow the future of our youths to be destroyed by the man who claims to be working for your welfare as your representative,” Subhash Maharia, former Union Minister, declared at an election meeting in Khuri Bari village of Lachhmangarh constituency on Tuesday. Mr. Maharia, the BJP candidate for the Rajasthan Assembly election, knew where to hit during the ongoing controversy over the government recruitment exam paper leaks.

Pradesh Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra is in a vulnerable position on his home turf following the raids conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on his premises in Jaipur and Sikar as part of probe into money laundering in the paper leak case. The three-time MLA from Lachhmangarh is facing some tough questions from the electorate.

A three-time BJP MP from Sikar, Mr. Maharia had joined the Congress in 2016 and left it in May this year to rejoin the BJP. He has used the ED raids at Mr. Dotasra’s houses as well as the ED’s summons to his two sons, one of whom is associated with the thriving coaching industry in Sikar, to target him. “Let an explanation come from him. This is a major scam,” Mr. Maharia said, as the audience clapped.

Locked in close fight

Interestingly, Mr. Dotasra had defeated Mr. Maharia with a margin of 10,723 votes in the 2013 Assembly polls. The two leaders are once again locked in a close fight with the odds loaded against Mr. Dotasra despite the ruling Congress’s claim of having extended the benefits of welfare schemes to the people.

Asked about the significance of the paper leak issue, which has mainly affected the candidates of the teachers’ recruitment exam this year, Mr. Maharia told The Hindu that it would prove to be the nemesis for the Congress. “Mr. Dotasra has been misleading the people with his false claims. We will not compromise on the dignity and self-respect of voters at this seat. No development has taken place here during the last five years,” he said.

However, Mr. Dotasra claimed at a rally held in Lachhmangarh after he filed his nomination papers last week that he had carried out ₹1,800 crore worth of development works in the constituency and built the roads of such a length that Mr. Maharia could travel on them for six months without finishing his journey. “I rule the heart of the people in this land of farmers and soldiers,” he said, dismissing the charges of the BJP.

The Pradesh Congress chief also said that the ED had resorted to action because he had been speaking against the BJP and the RSS. The BJP was using the Central investigating agencies as its weapons instead of contesting the polls on the real issues, he said.

Battle of survival

As no BJP candidate was elected in any of the eight constituencies in Sikar district in 2018, this year’s Assembly election is going to be a battle of survival for Mr. Maharia. Both Mr. Dotasra and Mr. Maharia belong to the dominant Jat community of the Shekhawati region.

Sohan Pal, 30, a farmer at Khuri Bari, said corruption in public life was an issue that deserved attention in the elections. Even the traditional Congress supporters would have reservations unless Mr. Dotasra convinced them, he said. Jatin Dhaka, a coaching student from Jasrasar village, said the probity in the examination system was the most important issue for the candidates.

Elsewhere in Sikar district, the issues of water scarcity, poor quality of roads, inadequate power supply to agricultural farms and organised crimes in the towns dominate the public discourse. The contest at several seats has become triangular with the candidates of CPI(M), Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and Haryana’s Jannayak Janata Party entering the fray.

Among the eight seats in the district, Dhod is reserved for Scheduled Castes, with a strong presence of the CPI(M) cadre. Khandela was the only seat where the Congress was defeated in 2018, but the winner was Congress politician Mahadeo Singh Khandela, who had contested as an independent candidate.

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