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Nagaur Ground Report: Beniwal & Mirdha Clash After Switching Sides, Who's Ahead?

In 2019, Beniwal had defeated then Congress candidate Mirdha by a margin of two lakh votes. Now tables have turned.

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“We get water once in six days and that too for one hour. A water tanker costs Rs 400. We will vote for the party which solves the problem of water,” said 60-year-old Rajendra Jain, a resident of Ladnun in Rajasthan.  

Ladnun falls under the Nagaur parliamentary constituency, which is set to witness a riveting competition in the Lok Sabha elections to be held in Rajasthan on 19 April.  

The seat will see two political heavyweights and old rivals lock horns once again. On the one hand is Jyoti Mirdha, who was the Congress MP from Naguar between 2009 and 2014 but joined the BJP ahead of the Assembly elections in Rajasthan last year.  

On the other hand, is Hanuman Beniwal – an influential Jat leader, popular among the farmers and the youth – who had won the Nagaur seat in 2019 with the support of the BJP. This time around, Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) has joined hands with the INDIA bloc and is contesting with the support of the Congress.  

In 2019, Beniwal had defeated then Congress candidate Mirdha by a margin of nearly two lakh votes. Now with tables turned, The Quint went on ground and spoke to party workers and locals to get a sense of which way the winds are blowing.

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Nagaur – Traditional Congress Seat? BJP Disagrees

Naguar kisaanon ka zila hai. (Nagaur is a farmers’ district.) 600 farmers and agricultural workers had died during the year-long farmers protest which started in 2020. Farmers are not going to support the BJP,” said Vijay Kumar Bhojak, one of the senior-most Congress workers from the district.  

He added that farmers from Nagaur had actively participated in the 2020 farmer agitation and that the Jat farmers will “not forget.”  

Gajendra Singh, BJP Ladnun district chief, said that it is PM Modi who has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers as against the Congress government, “which had rubbished the Swaminathan Commission report.” 

In 2019, Beniwal had defeated then Congress candidate Mirdha by a margin of two lakh votes. Now tables have turned.

Ahead of the Assembly elections, the BJP, in its manifesto had promised to double the amount of direct transfer to farmers among PM KISAN from Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000 per year, Singh recalled. 

Bhojak asserted that Nagaur has traditionally been a Congress seat and claimed that the party has never lost from the constituency since 1947 except on 2-3 occasions. He recalled how former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had inaugurated India’s first Panchayat in Nagaur. 

Jyoti Mirdha’s grandfather Nathuram Mirdha, a Congress strongman had held the Nagaur seat five times, between 1977 and 1996. In fact, in 1977, during the Janata Party wave, Congress had won one out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan and it was from Nagaur where Nathuram had won by a margin of over 20,000 votes.  

Singh disagreed. “We have won the seat in 2019 and 2014. How can it be a traditional Congress seat?” 

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‘Mirdha a Part-Time Politician, Her Exit Won’t Harm Congress’ 

Congress councillor Naushad Ali Sisodia labelled Mirdha as a “part-time politician” and asked, “Where was she in the last four-and-a-half years?”  

Quoting from Beniwal’s campaign speeches, Sisodia said that “Mirdha did not spend a single rupee from the Rs 5-crore MPLADS fund, when she was the MP from Nagaur. Her attendance in Parliament was a mere 30 percent.” 

Having campaigned for Jyoti Mirdha before, Bhojak alleged that she had joined the BJP due to “fear of ED (Enforcement Directorate) raids.” 

  • Vijay Kumar Bhojak, one of the senior-most Congress workers from the district, showing old photographs of his meetings with former chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

    (Photo: The Quint / Ribhu Chatterjee)

77-year-old Bhojak, who called himself the “first worker of the Congress,” had another grouse with Mirdha. “Jyoti never answered our phones. Whether she won the election or not, she never appreciated the party workers, despite their hard work on ground.”  

Agreeing with Bhojak, another Congress worker Mansaf Khan maintained that Mirdha’s exit won’t be detrimental for the party as she is not as popular as Beniwal.  

“Mirdha will lose by 2-2.5 lakh votes from Nagaur,” Bhojak declared.   

Singh, however, said that Beniwal had won as Nagaur MP in the 2019 election “only because he had support from the BJP.”

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Hanuman Beniwal: A Formidable Opponent

Talking about Hanuman Beniwal, Bhojak said, “Beniwal is the messiah of the farmers. He had left the NDA alliance in 2020 demanding repeal of the three farm laws amid the farmer agitation.”  

Bhojak told The Quint that Beniwal enjoys the following of 70 percent Jats, 100 percent Muslims, and 70 percent of those belonging to marginalised communities in the district.  

“Mirdha can’t compete with Beniwal’s following. He makes for a formidable opponent,” Sisodia said. He added that Jyoti Mirdha’s uncle Harendra – who had won the Nagaur Assembly seat last year, defeating his niece by a margin of over 14,000 votes – is also supporting Beniwal in the upcoming election.  

However, Singh said that the BJP will gain from Mirdha’s reputation as an honest, decisive and educated candidate. “Her votebank is not restricted to the Jat community. She will also garner votes from liberals and other social groups.”  

  • Gajendra Singh, BJP Ladnun district chief, said that it is PM Modi who has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for farmers as against the Congress government, “which had rubbished the Swaminathan Commission report.”

    (Photo: The Quint / Ribhu Chatterjee)

He added that Beniwal could have done a lot for the Jat community had he not broken the alliance with the NDA.  

Singh said: “Although the Dalit community usually favours the Congress, a lot of central schemes – including free foodgrain plan, housing scheme (PMAY), etc. as well as declaring Panchteerth to honour the legacy of BR Ambedkar – have benefitted marginalised communities. The BJP is expecting good vote share from this social group.”   

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Water, Unemployment Biggest Issues in Nagaur; Locals Choose Party Over Candidate

“The biggest issue in Ladnun is that of jobs. The Congress government ruined the future of so many students because of paper leaks,” a silver jewellery shop owner at Gandhi Chowk, Ladnun’s main market, said. He added, almost unflinchingly, that his vote will be for PM Modi.  

He admitted that he had voted for Beniwal when he was with the BJP but refused to cast his ballot in favour of the Congress party. 

On being asked about joblessness in Rajasthan, Singh said, “PM Modi-led government at the Centre, through various programmes, is training the youth to be job creators and not job seekers. Besides, the data doesn’t count farm workers in the unorganised sector.” 

Meanwhile, Khan alleged that after coming to power, the Bhajanlal Sharma-led BJP government in Rajasthan initiated the transfer of many Jat office bearers in the state government.   

Earlier this year Congress member and former MLA Krishna Poonia had tweeted a purported list of Jat office bearers and alleged that they had been transferred.  

The Quint has not independently verified the list.  

On being asked about this, Singh said, “When a new government is formed, the administration undergoes a rejig. It’s got nothing to do with any caste. It was routine” 

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Khan also claimed that after BJP won the the state elections in Rajasthan in December 2023, they withdrew many schemes which were announced by the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government, including the Indira Gandhi Rasoi (which offered food at subsidised rates) as well as Chiranjeevi Yojana (which provided health insurance cover of Rs 25 lakh). This is expected to sway the votes of their beneficiaries. 

However, Singh claimed that it was the BJP government helmed by Vasundhara Raje which had started the health insurance under the name Bhamashah Yojana and alleged that the Congress renamed it to Chiranjeevi. 

  • “The biggest issue in Ladnun is that of jobs. The Congress government ruined the future of so many students because of paper leaks,” a silver jewelry shop owner at Gandhi Chowk, Ladnun’s main market, said. He added, almost unflinchingly, that his vote will be for PM Modi.

    (Photo: The Quint / Ribhu Chatterjee)

Singh told The Quint that water scarcity and corruption are big issues here. He said: “If the BJP comes to power, we will solve these issues. We have spoken to the state Jal Shakti minister Kanhaiya Lal Chaudhary regarding this.” 

Bhojak, however, said that the electoral bonds data released by the Election Commission has “exposed the corruption” of the BJP-led government and “is the biggest issue this election.”

However, the issue doesn't seem to have much traction in Ladnun. “Whoever is in power will have money. They need it for the functioning of the country. PM Modi is not corrupt. He stands for development,” another shop owner said.

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‘Inflation Big Issue, BJP Set to Face Seat Deficit’ 

“There is so much polarisation that people are afraid to speak. The price of petrol is over Rs 100 a litre. But issues of inflation are not addressed,” Sisodia said. He added that the farmers and the middle class are adversely affected by the rising prices of commodities.  

Congress is taking these issues to the people, but change will take time. And BJP’s deficit in seats, not just in Rajasthan but across India, will be indicative of that change.  

In 2019, Beniwal had defeated then Congress candidate Mirdha by a margin of two lakh votes. Now tables have turned.

Banners at Congress party office.

(Photo: The Quint / Ribhu Chatterjee)

Another shop-owner, while embellishing his gota-patti by hand said that Ladnun has been “neglected since the last 50 years” irrespective of which government comes to power. But he will vote for Congress candidate Hanuman Beniwal in the upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, Singh said that on the one hand BJP’s senior leaders have started campaigning and on the other, workers are targeting voters at the booth level. He explained:

“Each karyakarta has been given the responsibility of one page of the electoral list. Each page has 60 voters. Their responsibility is to ensure that people come out to vote in large numbers irrespective of which election it is or who is the candidate.” 

Singh claimed that other parties can’t do this “booth-level management” the way BJP does. 

“BJP will win all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan by a minimum margin of one lakh votes,” Singh proclaimed. However, Bhojak didn’t seem to agree and said this plan will “fall through.” He remarked: 

Congress jitne dafe tooti hai, utni usme nikhaar aaya hai. Kabhi demoralise nahi hui. (Every time the Congress has broken, it just became more polished. It did not get demoralised.) We will definitely win more than the last time." 

He claimed that Congress will win at least six seats, and may even go up to 12, of the total 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in Rajasthan. He reasoned that Jat vote won’t get split this time unlike during the Assembly elections when Beniwal chose to contest independently.  

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Topics:  BJP   Rajasthan   Congress  

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