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Low-key campaign in Gehlot seat

Jodhpur, Nov. 26: Days before the December 1 poll, Rajasthan’s sun city is unusually quiet. The slogans, rallies, drumbeats, banners, festoons and the cavalcade of politicians’ jeeps that come with election time are missing. There is no tamasha to talk of.

Foreign tourists are surprised an Assembly election is coming up. “Is there an election round the corner? I have heard Indian elections are colourful and boisterous, almost a fun fair. But here it doesn’t seem so,” said Thomas Brown, a tourist from London.

The low-decibel campaigning is standing out in Jodhpur, the native town of 62-year-old chief minister Ashok Gehlot and part of his constituency, Sardarpura. He will take on the BJP’s Shambhu Singh Khetsar, 59.

Gehlot’s campaign office is deserted. He has not campaigned much in the constituency, except with Rahul Gandhi yesterday. That he has left to wife Sunita and daughter-in-law Himanshi.

A party worker said: “The Election Commission’s strict watch over candidates and their expenses have dampened the poll spirit. But it is good because campaigning is being done decently and on a personal level. Hooliganism and aggressiveness are absent.”

But Chandu Singh, a tea vendor in the Mahamandir area where Gehlot’s ancestral house is located, said: “Gehlot is confident of his win. He has already managed a hat-trick from here. He is taking care of the rest of Rajasthan while his family concentrates here.”

Gehlot’s nephew Pawan said: “Gehlotji is never showy. He is simple in values and taste. He has worked for Jodhpur’s development, has brought so many schemes, essential free medicine and old age pension. Also the IIT, Spice Park are here only because of him.”

Poll observers said Gehlot had come in for flak for giving tickets to the relatives of former minister Mahipal Maderna, alleged to have a role in the disappearance of a nurse called Bhanwari Devi who was apparently blackmailing them with a sex CD.

S.L. Bhargava, who is handling Khetasar’s campaign, said: “There has been no development in Jodhpur, especially Sardarpura, despite it being the chief minister’s constituency.

“The roads are bad, there is shortage of water and electricity. Even if Gehlot boasts about the free medicine scheme, there are no doctors and no essential medicines. Also why did he start the schemes only four months ago if he was so concerned about the poor?”

Shivpal, another BJP supporter, said: “Khetasar is a local. He has always been here and lived amongst the people. The price rise has hit all strata of people. The people can see through everyone. Also, the Narendra Modi factor will see our candidate through this time.”

The Gujarat chief minister is scheduled to be in Jodhpur on November 29.