Rahul Gandhi's mega road show in six constituencies in Rajasthan's Dholpur and Bharatpur today is aimed at taking on Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on her home ground.
Ms Raje belongs to the former royal family of Dholpur and is popular as "Maharani Sahib" to voters there.
In the by-election to the assembly seat in April 2017, it was her focused campaign run from inside Dholpur Palace that managed to dislodge the Bahujan Samaj Party and win the Dholpur seat for the BJP.
But Dholpur in eastern Rajasthan, that borders Uttar Pradesh, is a fertile ground for the Congress.
The Congress was wiped out in most of Rajasthan in the last state elections in 2013 but managed to retain a toehold in the Dholpur-Bharatpur belt, winning four seats. The Congress had a higher vote share, of 34.5 per cent, than that of the BJP in Dholpur.
This is why, the party believes, Rahul Gandhi's public outreach programme with the 163-km road show, can boost the Congress' prospects in the upcoming elections. "We have a good chance in east Rajasthan. That is why Rahul Gandhi is here and we are taking on the Chief Minister not just in Dholpur but in all 200 seats," said Rajsthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot.
There's another reason why the Congress is starting its election campaign from this part of Rajasthan, and that is the Mayawati factor. The Dalit powerhouse announced last week that her party will fight the elections on its own. She gave a shock to the Congress last week, ruling out any alliance with the party in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In the last elections, her party did better in Dholpur than it did in the rest of Rajasthan.
But the BJP is not entirely worried about the BSP.
"It is true that Mayawati impacts a certain vote bank. But the maximum she has ever got in Rajasthan has been 4 per cent of the vote share," said Rajendra Rathore, a minister in the Vasundhara Raje cabinet.
Mayawati's party won six seats in Rajasthan in the 2008 elections and two seats in the 2013 elections. It has never won from the same seat twice.
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