The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong women warriors battle BJP big guns

New Delhi, Nov. 14: On the last day for filing nominations, the Congress today pulled out two aces to challenge BJP’s Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan and Madan Lal Khurana in Delhi.

The party fielded Rajesh Pilot’s widow and political successor Rama Pilot against Vasundhara in Jhalrapatan and former Delhi University Students’ Union chief Alka Lamba against Khurana in his seat of Moti Nagar.

Currently representing Rajesh’s Dausa Lok Sabha seat, Rama is no stranger to state politics. In 1993 and 1998, she was elected to the Assembly from Hindoli in Bundi district. On instructions from the party high command last night, she filed her papers from Jhalrapatan today.

The poll managers in the AICC exuded confidence that by fielding a “formidable” candidate like Rama, the party would manage to pin down the BJP’s star candidate in Jhalrapatan.

Rama has been fielded not only because she is a woman, but, more importantly, she also carries the Gujjar tag. Voters from the Gujjar community, which accounts for over 13 per cent of Rajasthan’s population, are a decisive factor in the constituency that has generally favoured a candidate from among them.

The Congress has asked Mohan Lal Rathore, the incumbent MLA whose name was earlier cleared, to withdraw his papers.

Lamba, the youthful general secretary of the Youth Congress who will be making her maiden entry into big-time politics, is understood to be a reluctant warrior.

The former one-term chief of the National Students’ Union of India was hoping till the Delhi list of nominees came out the other day that the leadership would give her her preferred Hari Nagar seat. That was not to be.

“She has no reasons to complain,” an AICC functionary asserted. “She represents the party’s youthful face. She has a chance as Khurana represents a generation of leaders that no longer appeals to the city voters.”

Like in the case of Rama, the party leaders took into account the constituency profile while fielding Lamba. They reckoned she could stake claim to the support of the dominant Punjabi voters in Moti Nagar.

The polls will put to the test whether she can actually hurt the BJP old guard’s prospects by cutting into Khurana’s Punjabi vote base.

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