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Jat red dot in desert district

Dhod (Sikar, Rajasthan), Nov. 23: The Dhod Assembly seat in Rajasthan can easily pass for an ideal showcase of Jat political dynamics as the OBC community comprises almost 45 per cent of its voters.

But a closer look will show that the overwhelmingly rural constituency in Sikar district is no indicator to which way an estimated 14 per cent of Jats in the state will tilt in the December 1 polls.

The ruling Congress and the BJP, for instance, will certainly not be looking for clues in Dhod though they have locked horns to win the Jats over.

Here, it is the CPM that rules, helping the party maintain its solitary presence in the Assembly in both 1993 and 1998. The Jats in Dhod slipped out of Congress hands a decade ago and are yet to embrace the BJP.

The community is quite a big factor in deciding the outcome of elections in the state where they are reckoned to be the critical mass in nearly 70 seats, concentrated mainly in 10 of the 32 districts. But none of them has as many Jats as Dhod, which has nearly 175,000 voters and is 160 km northwest of Jaipur.

So have the Jats in Dhod betrayed the politics of caste to embrace that of the Marxists’ class struggle' Amra Ram, their representative in the Assembly since 1993, firmly believes so.

The emergence of the 48-year-old leader — who is in the fray again as a CPM candidate — over the last 10 years has doomed the fortunes of Congress Jat veterans such as former Lok Sabha Speaker Balram Jakhar and seven-time Dhod MLA Ramdev Singh Mahria.

For over two decades, Sri Kalyan College in the district headquarters of Sikar has been the nucleus of the CPM’s rise to and stay in power here and Amra Ram has been the leader.

After two failed bids to enter the Assembly from Dhod in 1985 and 1990, he finally got the better of Mahria in 1993 and went on to retain the seat in 1998.

Doubts, however, remain whether Amra Ram has really displaced caste politics. His rivals in Sikar town and Dhod claim he has simply replaced Mahria as the numero uno local Jat leader.

If Amra Ram had any doubts on this count, these must have been cleared after the 1999 general polls. As a CPM candidate from Sikar Lok Sabha seat for the third time, he had polled nearly 200,000 votes — more than double the number he had polled in the 1996 parliamentary polls but over 100,000 less than the 1998 tally.

The obvious reason was Amra Ram’s and his party’s strident opposition to the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s pre-poll announcement of granting OBC reservation to Jats.

If at all Amra Ram and the CPM are still opposed to the OBC status — since conferred — they no longer talk about it in public, lest poll prospects in Dhod are hurt. Moreover, Amra Ram cannot claim to have contributed significantly to his constituency’s development. His supporters have sensed some trouble on the organisation front, too.

For the first time in many years, the SFI, the CPM’s student wing and the backbone of Amra Ram’s organisational support, suffered major reverses in the union polls at Sri Kalyan College held three months ago. Some SFI leaders walked away to float the Indian Students Association, which, in alliance with the BJP-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, defeated the SFI.

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