A war muddies the Rajsamand battle

Haldighati echoes in election

Medieval history, with its chronicles of reigns and battles, is in full play in the Rajsamand Lok Sabha constituency, which was part of the erstwhile Mewar princely State. Rajput groups are protesting against the BJP for fielding Diya Kumari, 48, member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family and former Sawai Madhopur MLA, in the constituency.

The battle of Haldighati, fought in 1576, curiously finds an echo in the election campaign after four centuries.

The Mewar Kshatriya Mahasabha is opposing Ms. Kumari’s candidature citing “the questionable role” of her ancestors. The then Amber ruler, Raja Man Singh, had led Mughal Emperor Akbar’s forces and defeated Maharana Pratap in the battle of Haldighati.

The Mewar kingdom has had strained relations with the Jaipur royalty because the latter accepted the suzerainty of the Mughals. Raja Man Singh of the Kachwaha clan was a trusted general of Emperor Akbar, who included him among the ‘Navaratnas’ of the royal court, while the rulers of Mewar had resisted the conquests of Mughals.

Kshatriya Mahasabha’s general secretary Tanveer Singh Krishnavat said that Ms. Kumari’s candidature amounted to humiliation of Mewar’s Rajputs. “It is strange that the BJP has failed to find a local Rajput candidate here. Ms. Kumari was selected in a closed-door meeting and the decision was imposed on us without anyone being consulted,” he said.

At his election rally held in Udaipur on April 22, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of Mewar’s pride while referring to Maharana Pratap’s struggle to save his kingdom. Mr. Krishnavat said the BJP had not only hurt the dignity of Mewar for its political benefit, but had also accorded respectability to those who had stayed away from the agitation against the Padmaavat period drama film last year.

However, Ms. Kumari told The Hindu that the issue might have been spread by the Opposition camp and she had started her election campaign with the “blessings of Mewar’s royal family”, with which the Jaipur royalty had marital ties.

BJP leader Madhu Prakash Laddha pointed out that the then Amber ruler Sawai Jai Singh II had married the Sisodia princess of Mewar, Chandra Kanwar, in the 18th century, and their son Sawai Madho Singh, went on to become the king of the Jaipur princely State. “The historical facts should be seen and interpreted in perspective. They should not be used for a divisive campaign during elections,” he said.

Pressing problems

Congress candidate Devkinandan Gujjar, the District Congress Committee president, has been raising the issues of poor train connectivity, illegal mining and the drying up of the 17th century Rajsamand lake. Ms. Kumari said the broad gauge project for Rajsamand, awaiting approvals from various departments, would be one of her top priorities as an MP.

Shanti Devi, 62, selling groundnut on the lake banks, said the constant decline in water level had led to very little availability of both irrigation and drinking water during the past two years.

Villagers pointed out that since no step had been taken to protect the lake, farmers were facing an uncertain future and the young were finding it difficult to get livelihood opportunities.

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