Caste calculations in Rajasthan – and why Pilot matters in 30 seats

Caste calculations in Rajasthan – and why Pilot matters in 30 seats

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Congress leader Sachin Pilot. (Photo: IANS/Ravishankar Vyas)

ARCHANA SHARMA
Jaipur, June 4 (IANS)
 As Rajasthan goes to the polls in December this year, there are crucial caste equations which one needs to study and understand for the social engineering in this state is a little complicated and complex.
These caste equations have been springing surprises for many parties over the years.
The eastern belt forms the crucial region of Rajasthan which is known for its dominance of Meena and Gujjar votes, while the Shekhawati and Marwar belt is known for the crucial Jat votes.
The Meenas in 2018 sprung a surprise by rejecting the tallest leader of their community, Kirodilal Meena. Among the Jats, Hanuman Beniwal won by a record margin for he branded himself as a Jat leader.
He contested as an Independent in the assembly polls and later formed an alliance with the BJP from Nagaur. Later, he also contested the parliamentary polls and won. Recently, he broke his alliance with the BJP due to the farm laws issue. The BJP recently organised its state executive meeting in Nagaur to woo voters from this belt.
However, Beniwal still stands strong among his community and has announced he will give his full support to Sachin Pilot if he forms his own party.
The Jats in fact form the biggest caste group in Rajasthan with 9% population, the Marwar and Shekhawati regions are dominated by the Jats in 31 constituencies. Their significance and unity can be gauged from the fact that these constituencies saw voters sending 25 winners from the community.
Overall, they got 37 seats in the 200-member state assembly, elections for which were held on December 7, 2018. The Jats are followed by the Rajputs, with 6% of the population, who accounted for 17 seats.
Next is the Gujjar community which has a say in around 30 to 35 seats of eastern Rajasthan. They have traditionally been BJP voters but then they voted for the Congress showing loyalty to their community leader Sachin Pilot.
The community is influential in at least 30 seats, including Dausa, Karauli, Hindaun and Tonk. Together, the Meenas and Gujjars comprise 13% of the state’s population. “The Gujjars have traditionally been BJP supporters, but last time because of Pilot, they voted for the Congress,” said a party leader.
The Meenas are known to be Congress supporters, but then they had rejected their own community leader Kirodilal Meena, who claims to be the biggest tribal leader in the state. Eighteen Meena legislators were elected in the last polls; nine from the Congress, five from the BJP, and three Independents.
The Meenas continued to support the Congress, despite their leader Kirodilal Meena’s return to the BJP. According to political analysts, the community supported the Congress “without looking at the candidate, as they were not heard in the BJP government.”
Together, the Meenas and Gujjars comprise 13% of the state’s population.
Now all eyes are on the Assembly polls 2023.
The first crucial question is where will the Gujjars vote? This is a billion dollar question as the community feels cheated that their leader was not made chief minister when he was the face of the 2018 polls.
Now, amid speculation that Pilot will float a new party on June 11, this question becomes all the more crucial. If the community stands with him the Congress will face a loss of these crucial 30 to 35 seats in the forthcoming assembly polls.
Next is the Jat community which is yet again crucial in Rajasthan. While the Congress has its PCC president Govind Singh Dotasra who is a prominent Jat leader, the BJP has its ex-president Satish Poonia as a Jat.
While the BJP removed Poonia, upsetting the Jat community, the Congress, sources said, might elevate Dotasra as deputy CM to woo the Jat leaders. The BJP later announced Poonia as deputy leader of the opposition to placate the Jats, looking at their strong vote base.
The Meenas, the next crucial vote bank, is also being looked upon with speculation to see if they will help their powerful leader Kirodilal Meena of the BJP to win or else in another permutation if the Gujjars and Meenas stay united? All permutations and combinations are being discussed by the parties to ensure victory in the assembly polls.
Overall, the state has four major communities — Rajputs, Jats, Meenas and Gujjars, who voted in a mixed manner in the 2018 assembly elections, which saw the BJP concede defeat, and the Congress return to power after five years.

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