Ravindra Singh Bhati: Born into a Rajput family, Mr Bhati's foray into politics began in 2019.
Ravindra Singh Bhati, a 26-year-old Independent candidate, has made waves in the recent state assembly polls, leaving the political landscape in Rajasthan astir. Initially aligning with the BJP before parting ways over ticket disputes, Mr. Bhati secured a resounding victory in Barmer's Sheo constituency.
In a decisive electoral battle, Ravindra Singh Bhati triumphed over Independent candidate Fateh Khan by a margin of nearly 4,000 votes. The notable contenders trailing behind were Ameen Khan from the Congress and Swaroop Singh Khara from the BJP, respectively.
According to the Election Commission of India, Mr Bhati secured an impressive tally of almost 80,000 votes from the Sheo constituency. This victory marks the culmination of Bhati's journey, which began with his unexpected departure from the BJP just weeks before the polls, driven by the denial of a ticket.
Talking about his departure from the BJP, Mr Bhati, speaking with NDTV without explicitly naming the party, expressed, "I think struggle is in my destiny... every time they leave me at the last moment, but somewhere there is a power that works in favor of me, helping me through tough times."
Having campaigned extensively in Sheo for over a year and a half, Mr Bhati's expectation of a BJP ticket went unfulfilled, leading him to contest as an Independent candidate. His victory underscores his resilience and the backing of the electorate in Sheo.
In his post-election statements, Mr. Bhati emphasized his commitment to addressing fundamental issues in the Sheo constituency, focusing on water scarcity, electricity, education, and improved mobile connectivity. He particularly highlighted the paradox of Barmer being a major electricity provider for the state while facing inadequate power supply within its own boundaries.
The Rise to Politics
Born into a Rajput family, Mr Bhati's foray into politics began in 2019 through student politics. He made history by becoming the first independent president elected from Marwar region's largest university, JNVU. Notably, this achievement was fueled by his leadership in a movement to protect university land from being sold for a convention center.
Mr Bhati gained prominence when he spearheaded statewide protests against universities and colleges over fee issues during the challenging times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Subsequently, he was arrested in Jodhpur for allegedly disturbing peace and violating Covid protocols.
In September 2021, he led a significant protest in Jaipur against the Gehlot government, demanding 75% reservation for the youth of Rajasthan in employment, akin to the reservation policies in Haryana.
A law graduate from Jodhpur's Jai Narayan University (JNVU), Mr Bhati hails from Barmer's Dudhoda village, located in the Sheo constituency near the India-Pakistan border.
Sheo: A Contested Seat
The Sheo constituency in Barmer, with approximately 3 lakh voters, including over 1 lakh Muslim voters, emerged as a hotly contested seat in the Rajasthan assembly polls. Mr Bhati faced the challenge of defeating two prominent Muslim leaders and two influential figures from his own Rajput community.
Acknowledging the uphill battle, Mr Bhati commented, "I was fighting against a sitting and six-time MLA, who was contesting for the tenth time. I was in a contest with three other significant faces from Sheo, but I was confident that people's support and blessings were with me."
The defeat of six-time Congress MLA Ameen Khan, who had had been fighting from the same seat since 1980, signaled a shift in the political dynamics. Fateh Khan, a rebel Independent candidate, played a crucial role in Mr Bhati's victory by contesting independently after being denied a Congress ticket.
Swaroop Singh Khara, a prominent BJP figure, secured fourth place in Sheo, while the voters rejected another Rajput leader, ex-BJP MLA Jalam Singh Rawlot, who contested from Hanuman Beniwal's RLP after being denied a BJP ticket.
Fondly known as Ravsa among his peers, Mr Bhati's victory solidifies his position as one of the most popular student leaders in Rajasthan. By defeating formidable opponents, he has showcased his political acumen and presented a direct challenge to established political forces.
Regarding his future political affiliations, Mr Bhati remains non-committal, stating, "I can't say now; the situation will decide. But I want to clarify that I have my nationalist ideology, and I will continue to uphold it."