Nagaur Lok Sabha Elections 2024: After Swapping Parties, Beniwal vs Mirdha Clash Once More at the Ballot

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2024 marks a major switch in political equations in Nagaur, and the fact that both candidates are from the Jat community makes the contest a tight one in this Jat-dominated seat. (PTI/File)

In Nagaur, the BJP and the INDIA bloc have swapped their 2019 candidates. It’s all set to be a direct and close contest between the BJP’s Jyoti Mirdha and RLP’s Hanuman Beniwal, who is the INDIA joint candidate.

Nagaur Lok Sabha constituency, one of Rajasthan’s 25 parliamentary constituencies, falls under the General category and includes parts of Nagaur district. Presently, it comprises eight Legislative Assembly segments: Ladnun, Deedwana, Jayal (SC), Nagaur, Khinvsar, Makrana, Parbatsar, and Nawan, all situated within Nagaur district.

Current MP: Hanuman Beniwal of BJP from 2019. Preceded by Chhotu Ram Chaudhary of BJP (2014) and Dr Jyoti Mirdha (2009)

Candidates: Hanuman Beniwal (Rashtriya Loktantrik Party), Jyoti Mirdha (BJP)

Polling Date: Phase 1; April 19, 2024

Voting Factors

  • Swapping Candidates: In Nagaur, the BJP and the INDIA bloc have swapped their 2019 candidates. It’s all set to be a direct and close contest between the BJP’s Jyoti Mirdha and RLP’s Hanuman Beniwal, who is the INDIA joint candidate.
  • In 2019, Beniwal had been in the NDA and secured a victory with a margin of 181,260 votes and a vote share of 54.86% against Jyoti Mirdha who was the Congress candidate at the time.
  • 2024 marks a major switch in political equations in Nagaur, and the fact that both candidates are from the Jat community makes the contest a tight one in this Jat-dominated seat.
  • Caste Divide: The Modi wave is not as pronounced as it was in 2014 and 2019 in Nagaur. This is owing to emergence of Jat issues in recent years has brought caste back as a major divider and election equations appear to be reverting to caste-based voting.
  • Assembly Elections: In the 2023 Assembly elections, the BJP faced a similar challenge as it did in Churu and Jhunjhunu in the rest of the Shekhawati belt where a significant portion of Jat voters appeared to have turned against the party.
  • The BJP could win only two seats in Nagaur, including the Jayal (SC) and Nawan seats, while the Congress took four seats — Ladnun, Nagaur, Makrana and Parbatsar. RLP’s Hanuman Beniwal bagged Khinvsar and Yoonus Khan bagged Deedwana as an Independent.
  • If Beniwal wins the Lok Sabha elections, he will need to resign his Assembly seat, thus necessitating a bypoll.
  • Hanuman Beniwal Factor: The RLP was formed by Beniwal in 2018 after he was suspended from the BJP following his fallout with the senior party leadership in the state over his allegations corruption against them.
  • His grouse was primarily with then CM Vasundhara Raje. In 2018, Beniwal organized the “Hunkar Rally” ahead of the Legislative Assembly election, gaining support from the Jat community. His party secured three seats in the Assembly.
  • In 2019, the RLP came back to BJP fold with an alliance, and Beniwal contested the Nagaur seat while supporting BJP candidates elsewhere in Rajasthan.
  • But after the passage of the 2020 agriculture reform bills, Beniwal resigned from three parliamentary committees and his party supported the farmers’ protest.
  • Beniwal has now joined forces with the Congress. He is said to have gotten closer to former Congress CM Ashok Gehlot, who is backing his campaign actively in this seat.
  • Hanuman Beniwal is an impactful Jat leader in the region with considerable sway among the farmer community.
  • Beniwal’s greatest strength against the current BJP candidate is that he is permanently present on the ground while Mirdha is known for spending most of her time in New Delhi. This has caused a degree of disconnect between her and the electorate.
  • Beniwal is known to be in touch with his constituents and familiar with their issues.
  • Rule of Law vs Robin Hood: On ground, reports say that as an aggressive Jat and grassroots leader, Beniwal is also popular for allegedly “protecting” from the law those who are involved in illegal mining and electricity theft in the area.
  • Meanwhile, Mirdha is seen as a textbook stickler for the rule of law, which appeals more to urban voters, but not as much among the poorer farmer communities who romanticise Robin Hood-style leaders.
  • Jat Issues: Jats form a large part of the farmers’ community. In total, Jats account for 18.75% of the electorate in Nagaur. The emergence of Jat issues in recent years has turned equations upside down in the Shekhawati region and Nagaur is no stranger to this.
  • Being a Jat-heavy seat, it has been impacted by the farmers’ protests and the wrestlers’ protests taking place in and around Haryana.
  • Beniwal has made sure to side with his Jat stronghold from the early days of the frictions and remains effectively rooted in the community, which gives the sense that he will snatch the lion’s share of the Jat vote from the BJP.
  • Strongholds: A quick look at the election statistics shows that in the game of sheer numbers, it is going to be a very tough contest which may swing in Beniwal’s favour.
  • In 2019, Mirdha, being a Congress candidate, bagged almost 40% of the vote. Beniwal had about 55%.
  • If the Jats, who form 18.75% of the total voter population here, lean largely towards Beniwal, the SC vote (20.9%) is split as it is expected to; and Muslim voters (14.3%) vote en-masse for INDIA, then Beniwal, bolstered by his popularity, may find himself in a favourable position.
  • However, a portion of the Congress is yet to come around the idea of supporting Beniwal’s campaign as he had previously been a hostile rival to them. But his rapport with Ashok Gehlot, and support of Gehlot’s Mali community, could outweigh these issues.
  • Internal opposition: Beniwal faced considerable opposition from Congress party leaders and workers when talks of him forming an alliance with Congress emerged.
  • Ultimately, it was Ashok Gehlot who managed to convince the party of letting him in. However, it is yet to be seen whether the party’s leaders and workers campaign for Beniwal whole-heartedly or not.
  • BJP’s Mirdha Gamble: The BJP has fielded Jyoti Mirdha after she switched over in September 2023.
  • Congress’s political entry into Nagaur could not have been possible without the Mirdha family who are seen as the political gatekeepers of the area.
  • They are respected in the constituency and before Beniwal’s emergence, they held tremendous control over the Jat vote.
  • Mirdha is the granddaughter of the late Jat leader Nathuram Mirdha, one of the tallest farmer leaders in the state of Rajasthan. He is known as the Gandhi of Rajasthan. Renowned for bolstering the agriculture and cooperative sectors in Rajasthan, he had been a prominent figure since 1972, having been elected to the Lok Sabha six times.
  • Other prominent members of the family include the late Ram Niwas Mirdha who served as a union cabinet minister and as the MP from Barmer in the 70s and 80s.
  • Blood Feud: Currently the Mirdha family is split between the BJP and the Congress as Jyoti Mirdha’s uncle Harendra Mirdha is the sitting Congress MLA from the Nagaur Assembly constituency.
  • In fact, Harendra Mirdha defeated Jyoti Mirdha from Nagaur in the assembly election in 2023. As evident, Jyoti Mirdha is up against her own blood when it comes to her candidature in this Lok Sabha election.
  • A lot hinges on whether Congress leaders, including her uncle, aggressively campaign for “outsider” Beniwal at her cost or not. Meanwhile, she faces a similar issue with being accepted by BJP leaders.
  • Mirdha’s Problems: Mirdha is based in New Delhi, allegedly out of touch with the day-to-day struggles in Nagaur, and her in-laws are dragged into political mudslinging often.
  • Hanuman Beniwal accused Jyoti Mirdha of joining the BJP to shield her in-laws from the India Bull scam investigation.
  • Beniwal has criticised Mirdha for her electoral defeats and alleged negligence in developing Nagaur. He claimed that her family had left Nagaur in ruins and emphasised the improvements brought about during his tenure.
  • Strongholds: Mirdha brings in the support of some traditional Jat voters, including loyalists of the Mirdha dynasty, and those who are not swayed by relatively new leader Beniwal.
  • Defections in Mirdha’s Favour: In a recent development in March, several Congress leaders, including former MLAs Richpal Singh Mirdha and Vijaypal Singh Mirdha, as well as prominent Jat leaders from Nagaur, have defected to the BJP.
  • Additionally, over 12 senior leaders, including three former ministers, have also joined the BJP. These leaders are expected to campaign aggressively for Jyoti Mirdha. Richpal Mirdha, for example, is a popular leader with excellent communication skills owing to his quirky style.
  • Jat Challenge: Anti-incumbency sentiments against the BJP among Jat voters have emerged as a significant concern for the party in the Shekhawati region, including Nagaur.
  • Various issues, such as opposition to the Agnipath scheme, protests by wrestlers against BJP MP Brij Bhushan, and farmers’ demands regarding MSP and crop insurance, have adversely impacted the BJP’s reputation within the Jat community in this area.
  • Caste Dynamics: The discontent among Jat voters was evident in the 2023 Assembly elections as well. In Nagaur, Hanuman Beniwal has effectively capitalized on Jat concerns. Furthermore, the BJP’s decision to deny ticket to Jat leader Rahul Kaswan in neighbouring Churu has also made things worse.
  • Although, the more progressive Jats will stick to PM Modi, the party may lose out on the more backward, agriculture dependent Jats who may swing to INDIA bloc.
  • The BJP expects its core vote, the Rajputs, to stick to it. Meanwhile, the SC vote will split between the two alliances. The Meghwals are a prominent SC community and are unhappy that they did not get a ministerial representative in the newest BJP state cabinet.
  • Modi Factor: The BJP is bolstered by the Modi factor which remains potent, though not as pronounced as it was in 2019. Modi’s development-oriented politics, nationalism, and unabashed push for Hindutva, are keeping the Modi wave up and running. The Ram Mandir inauguration, especially, has been received well by communities transcending the caste divide.

Key Constituency Issues

  • Changing the Constitution: Jyoti Mirdha was caught in the eye of the storm recently with a statement on “hard decisions and constitutional changes in the interest of the nation” and how elections to the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are key to that end. The Congress is accusing the BJP of wanting to “change Balasaheb Ambedkar’s Constitution”. Congress leaders like Shashi Tharoor also jumped in the fray to accuse Mirdha and the BJP of “revealing” their true “aim”.
  • Electricity issues: People are also facing a significant shortage of electricity which has affected farmers the most. Farmers allege that electricity remains cut off for hours on end and remains unreliable the rest of the time. There are also mass complaints of electricity theft.
  • Illegal mining: Illegal mining is a serious issue in this part of the state, and the new BJP government has also initiated a crackdown on those involved since coming to power last winter. Recently, the Enforcement Directorate conducted raids at multiple locations in Rajasthan, including Jaipur, Udaipur and Nagaur. The state administration has been tasked with ensuring stringent measures to combat the mining mafia operating in the Nagaur district, particularly targeting illegal activities involving gravel and masonry stone extraction, transportation, and storage.
  • Mali Quota: The Mali community, a prominent Scheduled Caste community, is demanding a quota of 12% in government jobs and educational institutions. Their agitation took shape in April 2023, and intensified following the discovery of the body of Mohan Saini, a 45-year-old man, hanging from a tree approximately 200 yards away from the protest site. Now, there is a call for Rs 1 crore compensation for Mohan’s family and employment for a dependent.
  • Water Scarcity and Drinking Water Crisis: Nagaur is a severely water-stressed district and situated on the western part of Aravali range. The only available groundwater here is in the small pockets near some towns. Groundwater in Nagaur district is full of fluoride and calcium which is not suitable for farming in any way. Most of the tracts of land here are dependent on the Kharif season rainfall. Otherwise, there is no proper way of irrigating the lands. Rainfall is erratic and cannot be trusted.
  • Yamuna Water MOU: Soon after the installation of the new BJP government Rajasthan, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had managed to bring together Chief Ministers of Haryana and Rajasthan to sign an MoU to supply surplus Yamuna water to Rajasthan. This has been a long-standing demand of farmers in Shekhwati region. The deal has raised Gajendra Shekhawat’s stature. This may play into BJP’s favour.
  • Farmers’ issues: Farmers in this mostly rural area struggling with lack of irrigation, lower crop yields, and reduced incomes. They’re unhappy with the government’s low minimum prices for crops and the limited coverage of the crop insurance plan. Led by the Jat community, farmer protests have gained traction. Issues facing farmers include blight & wilt in cumin, gummosis & blight in fennel, leaf curl in chilies, destruction of crops by wild boars and Nilgai.
  • Agniveer Scheme: The Agniveer scheme is another issue on the ballot as local youth view the scheme as a limitation on their aspirations to join the Army which is one of the few popular avenues for employment.
  • Indian Wrestlers’ Protest: The alleged sexual harassment of female wrestlers by BJP MP Brijbhushan Saran Singh has become an emotive issue. The law is perceived to have not done justice. The police action against wrestlers have also angered the Jat community.
  • Unemployment: Unemployment has been a major issue in Nagaur district. During his announcement as a candidate from the INDIA bloc, Beniwal had also raised the issue.

Voter Demographics

Total voters (2019): 1,920,735

Rural voters: 1,534,667 (79.9%)

Urban voters: 386,068 (20.1%)

Literacy rate: 53.17%

Social Demographics

SC voters: 401,434 (20.9%)

ST voters: 5,762 (0.3%)

Jat voters: 18.75%

Religious Demographics

Hindu: 85.24%

Muslim: 14.3%

Jain: 0.39%

Infrastructure Development

  • Railway Infrastructure: The railway network has undergone substantial modernization and upgrades in the area, with several key projects reaching completion.
  • The Makrana-Bidyed section now boasts a fully converted gauge, enabling faster and more efficient train operations. Safety and train movement have been significantly improved on the Bikaner-Merta Road section. Level crossings on the Phulera-Merta Road section have been replaced with three Road over bridges (ROBs) and 20 Road under bridges (RUBs), enhancing safety and ensuring smoother traffic flow. Kuchaman City & Deedwana stations now proudly utilize 10 kWp solar PV modules, demonstrating the railway’s commitment to sustainable energy solutions.
  • The Phulera-Degana railway section has seen a significant boost in connectivity and train services. 12 new trains have been introduced with 48 stoppages within the section. The frequency of the Jodhpur-Delhi Sarai Rohila-Jodhpur Express has increased from bi-weekly to daily, providing more regular connections between these major cities. Makrana station now also enjoys stoppages for Bikaner-Kolkata-Bikaner Express.
  • Doubling Tracks: The entire 108-km stretch between Phulera and Degana will be doubled, allowing for increased train frequency and reduced travel times. This project comes at a cost of Rs 612 crore.
  • Enhanced Passenger Comfort: Several stations will receive upgrades including platform shelters, additional platforms and foot overbridges.
  • Road Infrastructure: On November 28, 2022, then Rajasthan Cheif Minister Gehlot had approved a slew of road projects measuring 54 kms in Nagaur worth Rs 26.45 crore.
  • Two-laning of Salasar–Nagaur section of NH-65 on HAM basis with total length of 119.594 kms at a cost of Rs 480 crore was carried out by the central government.
  • Education: On May 5, 2023, The Rajasthan state government announced the creation of a new nursing college in Nawan, Nagaur, along with two others at a combined cost of Rs 17.70 crore.
  • During the nine-year tenure of the Modi government many government educational institutes such as Agriculture College, Medical College (under construction), Kendriya Vidyalaya etc have been inaugurated in Nagaur.

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