Rajasthan polls: Jaipur Princess takes on the man who could be kingmaker

Rajasthan polls: Jaipur Princess takes on the man who could be kingmaker

File photo of Princess Diya Kumari

Jaipur:  Sawai Madhopur, about a 160 kilometres east of Rajasthan's capital Jaipur, is better known for its famous Tiger haunt, the Ranthambore National Tiger Park. But these days, as the state heads to election, there is another fight for supremacy being fought here. The former Princess of Jaipur, Diya Kumari, is taking on Kirori Lal Meena, the man who could play kingmaker in Rajasthan in this constituency.

Diya Kumari is a Vasundhara Raje protege and a first-timer in politics, still trying to get her grip on the hustle of fighting an assembly election. But she has no regrets in joining the BJP or politics.

"I think more and more informed people, educated people and with clean image should come into politics. Then only we can change the system," she says.

Narendra Modi has campaigned for Diya Kumari in Sawai Madhopur, where he reminded the people that she is actually no outsider; it was one of her ancestors Sawai Madho Singh who founded this city in 1763 and that she is here to stay and work with the people.

But fighting an old hand like Kirori Lal Meena will not be easy for Diya Kumari. Mr Meena knows how to manipulate the so-called "system".

Once part of Vasundhara's cabinet, Mr Meena fell out in 2008 with his mentor over ticket distribution. He decided to go it alone in the 2008 elections where he bagged four seats and helped Ashok Gehlot to form a Congress government with outside support.

Mr Meena has spent the past last five years trying to set up a Third Front in Rajasthan. His National People's Party under P A Sangma's banner in Rajasthan is an alliance of tribal leaders BJP rebels and Congress dissidents determined to fight elections on at least 150 seats out of 200. Mr Meena could well play spoilsport for the Congress and the BJP alike.

The tribal strongman could turn Rajasthan traditionally a BJP-Congress battleground into a triangular contest in many seats.

With more than 27 BJP rebels and 15 Congressmen in his fold, Mr Meena could be a deciding factor if no party crosses the 100 mark in the 200-member Assembly.

"We will create a situation where we will not run after the chair, but the chair will chase us," Mr Meena says.

Sawai Madhopur has a voting population of about 2.30 lakh. Of these, a large majority - about 40,000 - are Meenas and an equal number are Muslims. While the BJP wants to make inroads into the other votes about, the Congress has entered a young face to take on Diya Kumari's royal charisma and Mr Meena's ambitions to be the kingmaker.

Young Danish Abrar, the Congress candidate in this triangular fight is also a first timer but in Sawai Madhopur he is seeking to reclaim his family legacy. Danish is the son of late Abrar Ahmed, a former Rajya Sabha MP and Yasmin, who has been a Congress MLA from here.

"I have a lot of factors here in my favour. All these people you see supporting me are not supporters, they are my family," he says.

Will Diya Kumari's royal glamour translate into votes for the BJP or will Danish be able to reclaim his father's legacy, or will Kirori Lal Meena with dreams of playing kingmaker turn the battle in his favour - Sawai Madhopur will be an election that Rajasthan will be looking at.

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