Rajasthan's royals continue to try their luck at the hustings with three scions of the erstwhile royal families spicing up the Lok Sabha polls in the desert land.
This time, three members of the erstwhile royal families are testing their might in the people's court. Their fates will be decided in two phases of polling on April 29 and May 6. Leading the group is Dushyant Singh, the three-time Lok Sabha member from Jhalawar Baran and a scion of the erstwhile Dholpur royal family.
Dushyant Singh, son of former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje who is the Maharani of Dholpur, is banking on his connect with the people for a fourth consecutive win from this constituency which he inherited from Raje in 2004. His opponent is the Congress's Pramod Sharma who is presenting himself as a commoner. Raje, a descendant of the Scindia royal family in Madhya Pradesh and married into the royal family of Dholpur, represented Jhalawar Baran in the Lok Sabha starting 1989 until 2004 when she vacated the seat for her son.
Diya Kumari of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family is also in the fray. She is the granddaughter of Gayatri Devi, who was the first woman member of a royal family to win the 1962 general election on Swatantra Party's ticket. Gayatri Devi held a Guinness record for clocking nearly 80 per cent of the votes in the 1962 election.
Diya Kumari, whose father Sawai Bhavani Singh had unsuccessfully dabbled in politics, has been a BJP lawmaker from the Sawai Madhopur Assembly seat in the past and is contesting the parliamentary election for the first time from Rajsamand. She always flags her non-royal background when she engages with voters.
"I am an armyman's daughter," she usually says on the campaign trail. "Nationalism and national pride are the two key issues dominating this Lok Sabha election," she says, referring to the Indian Air Force strikes at terror camps in Pakistan's Balakot, a move that finds resonance in Rajasthan.
Diya Kumari's reference to her late father Bhawani Singh of the 10th Parachute Regiment is in order to align her campaign with the BJP's nationalism narrative in this election. "My father got the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) for raiding enemy positions across the border in Pakistan," she says in her rallies.
Diya Kumari is pitted against the Congress's Devkinandan Gurjar in the April 29 poll. Gurjar uses Diya Kumari's royal background to campaign against her. "I am a farmer's son and will remain with you always. She is a 'maharani'. If elected, she will not come back," he tells people.
At Alwar, former Union minister Jitendra Singh of the Congress is another royal in the electoral arena. He hails from the Alwar royal family and represented the city in the Lok Sabha in 2009. His mother was a Lok Sabha MP of the BJP from 1991 to 1996. As Jitendra Singh campaigns in the narrow alleys of Alwar, people hail him as "Bhanwar", a royal title they still use to show respect in these largely feudal land.
"Our family has lived here for generations and we will always be there for our people," he says in his election speeches. His opponent is the BJP's Mahant Balak Nath, a disciple of former MP of the area late Mahant Chand Nath. In the past too, members of the royal families have ventured into politics and become MPs.
Chandresh Kumari of the Jodhpur royal family represented the Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat in 2009 and went on to become the Union minister for culture in 2012 in the Manmohan Singh government. She, however, lost to the BJP's Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Chandresh Kumari is the daughter of Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur royalty and is married to the royal Katoch family in Kangra. Similarly, Ijyaraj Singh of the Kota royal family was also elected to the Lok Sabha in 2009 on a Congress ticket. His wife has since joined the BJP and had unsuccessfully contested the assembly seat in 2018.