One of the most watched contests in the ongoing Lok Sabha election will be the battle for Jaipur Rural seat in Rajasthan where Commonwealth gold medallist and Olympian Krishna Poonia is taking on Olympic silver medallist and Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore.
Rathore had won the Lok Sabha election from Jaipur Rural in 2014 by over three lakh votes against Congress' CP Joshi.
The Jaipur Rural seat has approximately 19,33,000 voters.
Poonia, a Jat who won her first election as MLA from Sadulpur in December 2018, has been fielded with an eye on the Jat community and women voters who form a large chunk of the electorate. The Congress feels that Poonia is a strong candidate as after the recently concluded assembly polls in Rajasthan the Congress holds six of the eight assembly seats in the Jaipur Rural constituency.
Rathore, a champion double trap shooter, and Poonia, a champion discus thrower, are leaving nothing to chance. Rathore is seen running a well organised campaign and is also using a software application to cover maximum ground in his constituency. Rathore travels through villages in an orange SUV with the lotus symbol and images of him and Narendra Modi prominently printed on the car. He communicates with his team from the front seat of his car using a walkie-talkie and giving them commands to stop the cavalcade whenever he wants to meet people.
The former army man makes it a point to stop every ten minutes wherever there is a group of people wanting to meet him or want him to visit the local temple. Local sensitivities matter a lot during a campaign and Rathore tries not to upset anyone. Behing him travels a modified Scorpio with big speakers which play out excerpts of Modi's speeches.
"I am basically an army man and so I like it when things are organised. When you are dealing with greater responsibility your communication needs to be good. Command, control, communication and information are important for both an army man and an MP", he told CNBC TV18 during his campaign.
Rathore reminds voters about the roads and the army recruitment camp that he brought to Jaipur. He lays emphasis on
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi and Ayushman Bharat Yojana at every public meeting. Rathore invokes his legacy in nukkad sabhas, telling voters that his entire family has fought wars and his great grandfather was also a prisoner of war. At the end of each conversation he urges voters to rise above all caste differences and vote for Modi.
If Rathore addresses 20 sabhas a day, Poonia is not far behind.
She claims she is addressing at least 35 meetings each day and is highlighting Rathore' failures. "I am a sports person, I have always played outdoor games and so I have the stamina", she says.
Knowing very well that Congress came to power in Rajasthan on the promise of loan waivers for farmers, Poonia tries to strike a chord with the farmers in every meeting saying, "I am a kisan ki beti [I am a farmer's daughter], I have milked cows and cut wheat and I can never keep myself from going into fields". She told CNBC TV18.
"I have a lot of respect for Rajyavardhan ji. He too has won a medal for the country but he is accountable for the lack of work in his constituency despite being an MP and a minister for five years".
While Rathore accuses the Ashok Gehlot government of not fulfilling the promise of loan waivers, Poonia says she has herself given out cheques of Rs 1,50,000 to farmers. Like Rathore, she too tries to respect feelings of people in the campaign season. After she finished campaigning in Manpura Macheri village, locals asked her to visit the dalit basti and Poonia promptly did that and garlanded a statue of BR Ambedkar.The Jaipur Rural seat goes to polls on May 6. Retaining the seat is a prestige battle for both Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and the BJP.