Both Ashok Gehlot, the three time chief minister of Rajasthan and minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat are having sleepless nights. Gehlot's son Vaibhav is fighting from Jodhpur, a seat that the father has won five times between 1980 and 1999. Minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has risen from the RSS ranks and won Jodhpur seat in 2014 with a record margin of over 400,000 votes.
The chief minister is putting all his might into campaigning for his son. After all, a defeat would not only be a blow for his, son who is making his first plunge in electoral politics, but would also weaken the 67-year-old's own position as chief minister. A loss for Gehlot and his son on their home turf would strengthen the position of Sachin Pilot who had made a strong bid for the post of chief minister after the Congress' win in Rajasthan assembly election, but had to settle for the deputy CMs post after Rahul Gandhi picked Gehlot for the top job.
A defeat for Shekhwat, on the other hand, would weaken his position within the BJP in Rajasthan. His differences with Vasundhara Raje are well known and insiders say the former CM had opposed his appointment as state BJP president ahead of assembly elections. Shekhwat could be the chief ministerial candidate for BJP in Rajasthan in the next assembly election and a defeat could weaken his chances.
No wonder both leaders are leaving no stone unturned. Since his son was given a ticket, Gehlot has been literally camping in Jodhpur. The owners' suite in the Radison Hotel is almost like a mini secretariat for the CM. Gehlot usually spends the night here after campaigning in other parts of the state. The hotel lobby is full of Congress workers, media, the CM's staff, and security detail.
Gehlot is keeping a hawk eye on every block across the eight assembly seats of Jodhpur. He regularly holds meetings and takes feedback from local Congress workers of each ward and has addressed several public meetings and a road show as well. A close aide of the CM on the condition of anonymity said, "Gehlot ji is spending a lot of time here as the fight is very tough. He has done about 10 sabhas already. It's a very close election and nothing is certain".
Gehlot reaches the Jodhpur hotel usually in the evening, rests for an hour or so before meeting party workers. At 8-8:30 pm he leaves for the last leg of campaigning before the 10 pm deadline and then holds strategy meetings till 3 am in the night.
A Congress worker involved with his son Vaibhav's campaign said, "We have already been to every assembly segment 3-4 times but it is difficult to predict the outcome. The winning margin for either candidate could be just 10,000-15,000 votes".
Gehlot has also brought in big Congress faces like Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Anand Sharma and Kuldeep Bishnoi to campaign for his son. Members of the CM's staff and close political aides are managing Vaibhav Gehlot's campaign and media outreach.
The BJP knows very well what this seat means to Gehlot senior and how difficult it would be for its sitting MP Gajendra Singh to retain it. It is hardly a surprise that both the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah have campaigned in Jodhpur. A local BJP leader said, "Usually Amit Shah doesn't campaign where the PM has gone but when it comes to this seat the fight is very tough and that's why both the PM and Amit Shah have come here".
Both Shah and former Rajasthan CM Vasundhra Raje held a roadshow in Jodhpur on Friday evening in support of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Shekhawat has also accused the CM of misusing the state machinery. "Sitting cabinet ministers, MLA, government officers and senior police officers are all being pressurised by the CM, they are creating hurdles for me but will not succeed", Shekhawat told CNBC TV18.
A close aide of the minister said, "Ashok Gehlot has brought in different cabinet ministers to appeal to different castes in Jodhpur. Government officers are being used to put pressure on voters".
At the district BJP office in Jodhpur party workers express their anxiety about the election outcome. A party worker said, "We cannot say anything this time. The CM is campaigning as if it is his own election. Hope they don't try to slow down voting on election day as they have the police and bureaucracy under them".
Speaking to CNBC TV18, Vaibhav called these allegations baseless. He said, "People of Jodhpur know my father and he would never resort to such tactics. I will win by a good margin and hope to live up the expectations of the people of Jodhpur".The Lok Sabha election for the Jodhpur constituency will decide the political future of Ashok Gehlot and his son as well as Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's future in Rajasthan politics.