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Silken ride for one royal, not so for friend

In this belt where the royals still hold sway, two royal friends have hit the road again to renew their bond with the people. But there ends the likeness. For one, the ride is bumpy, for the other it can’t get smoother than this.

Jhalawar’s Dushyant Singh, 41, son of Rajasthan’s BJP chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and Kota royal family scion Ijyeraj Singh, 49, are friends — but on different sides of the fence.

It’s not that they have taken on each other in this Hadauti region — one is contesting from Jhalawar and the other from Kota — but their destinies have intertwined with the rivalries between their parties since the older man, a sitting Congress MP, campaigned for the BJP candidate a decade back.

For Dushyant, there cannot be a better time than this. His mother Vasundhara, daughter of the Gwalior royal family, is chief minister; his party walloped the Congress in last year’s Assembly elections; and he has nurtured Jhalawar, a constituency akin to the Gandhi family’s Amethi-Rae Bareli.

It is the only city that has a sprawling, new mini secretariat in the desert state, a medical college and improved road connectivity.

His opponent, the Congress’s Pramod Jain Bhaya, whose wife lost the 2009 election to Dushyant, is no match. Moreover, the eight Assembly segments that make up the Jhalawar parliamentary constituency are all with the BJP.

Raje had retained Jhalawar five times from 1989 before handing over the pocket borough to her son, who has already won it twice and is aiming for a hat-trick now.

Ijyeraj, son of Kota royal Brijraj Singh, however, faces a tough fight from the BJP’s Om Birla, sitting MLA from Kota (South) and a leader with a mass base who has built crematoriums and night shelters.

In his campaigns, Ijyeraj, who has completed several projects, said he had highlighted the work his party has done for Kota, like upgrading the Kota railway station, getting the sanction for a new airport, a new agricultural university, and restarting online centres for the IIT-JEE Mains exam this year.

Residents of Kota — around five hours’ drive from Jaipur, Jhalawar is another two hours’ drive — say Ijyeraj, who won the 2009 election, has always been helpful, accessible, courteous and willing to listen. “Ijyeraj has no airs of being a royal or an MP. He is a thorough gentleman. I wish he wins despite this so-called BJP wave. He is like one of us, an aam aadmi,” said Hargopal Vyas, a retired teacher.

“I also believe in being like a commoner,” Ijyeraj told The Telegraph.

But statistics are against Ijyeraj, an MBA from Colombia Business School. All the eight Assembly segments in Kota are with the BJP.

Ijyeraj has an aam aadmi contender too in Ashok Jain, an Arvind Kejriwal loyalist.

In Jhalawar, the story is different. Dushyant is still addressed as “Raja saheb” and people don’t seem to mind even if he doesn’t have time to meet everyone after a long day.

A group of aggrieved villagers, waiting at Jhalawar’s palatial Prithvi Niwas to meet their raja with a complaint about a woman being wronged, had to return empty-handed.

Dushyant, tired after canvassing and already late for the day’s campaign, had jumped into his car and zoomed off to woo another set of aam aadmis in neighbouring Baran.

Among those who had been waiting to meet Dushyant was a businessman from Jaipur. “He is busy. I don’t mind. He has turned around Jhalawar, has brought so many trains to Jhalawar. Earlier, there were no halts here. Now it costs only Rs 20 to travel from Kota to Jhalawar,” said the businessman, who didn’t want to be named.

Nitaram Singh, a pan vendor in Jhalawar, summed it up. “Beating the Raje family is impossible here. There is never any swing of votes,” he said. “It always swings in favour of the Maharani’s family.”

Jhalawar and Kota vote on April 17