In Rajasthan’s Bharatpur, anger over development and caste, and BJP’s uphill battle

The constituency had voted for the BJP in the last two elections.

WrittenBy:Meena Kotwal

Ram Temple, ‘no hospital’: ‘We don’t like this brand of Hinduism’

About 50 kilometres away from Nagla Mana is the Ranf village, inhabited mostly by Jatav families which complain of untouchability, lack of basic amenities, and the inaccessibility of government policies.

“Women have to be taken to Bharatpur or Alwar for deliveries. There are so many problems here but no MP or MLA has ever paid attention,” said Mansa Ram Kanhaiya Lal Tanwar,  a 43-year-old who lives in the area. 

Dinesh Mishra*, a local who stood near a shop donning a white t-shirt, claimed that BJP MP Koli had promised a railway track, and the same unfulfilled promise is now being repeated by the party candidate Ramswaroop Koli. “We do not like this behaviour.”

Pointing to a private hospital in the distance, he said there is a government health centre near it but it only has medicine for “cough and cold”. “If they could have built a hospital for us instead of the (Ram) temple, we would have been happier…we do not like this kind of Hinduism.”

Brij Mohan, another villager, said the BJP’s supporters among the upper castes do not let the “lower castes” go to temples. “Ram isn’t ours. Babasaheb (BR Ambedkar) is ours…whatever we have is given by Babasaheb.”

“We will not vote for this government again…people in the BJP want to finish off the Constitution,” he said, repeating the Opposition’s accusation that PM Modi’s government wants to change the Constitution and strip vulnerable sections of quota benefits if it storms to power the third time with its “400-paar” call. 

PM Modi has recently tried to dispel such fears, claiming that not even BR Ambedkar can change the Constitution now, while referring to the BJP’s fulfilled promises, such as the de-operationalisation of Article 370 as well as the construction of the Ram Mandir.

Brij Mohan accused two OBCs groups of practicing casteism “the most”. “We talk to them but there is no common ground. We are never invited to their wedding functions. They say ‘you are from a lower caste’.”

Ram isn’t ours. Babasaheb (BR Ambedkar) is ours…whatever we have is given by Babasaheb.

Brij Mohan, a villager from Ranf.

The missing education and health facilities point to another kind of exclusion.

Salim, a journalist from  Bharatpur, said the area lacks jobs as well as education and health facilities. “If someone falls sick, they have to go 50 kilometres away to Bharatpur. And because of no employment,” he said, there was a surge in crimes. He claimed Ranjeeta Koli had made many promises which remained unfulfilled so there is a trust issue this time.

The hospital Salim was referring to is the Rajasthan-run Raj Bahadur Memorial in the administrative headquarters of Bharatpur division. 

The way to the OPD is marked by a poster announcing the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Inside, Karan Sinha, a labourer from Kathukumar, told The Mooknayak that he had to travel 60 kilometres for treatment of his leg injury.

He isn’t the only one. Virendra, in his 40s, came to the hospital for his four-year-old son’s CT scan as his village which is located nearly 60 kilometres away lacked the necessary equipment.

According to a Union health ministry report, there were 31,053 active primary health centres across India, with 24,935 located in rural areas and 6,118 in urban areas. India has 6,064 active community health centres, of which 5,480 were rural. According to the report, the number of sub-centres have increased by 11,909, with the largest number of new sub-centres being set up in Rajasthan.

The OPD counters were empty at the RBM hospital, but outside, temporary counters had been set up for free medicines under the Mukhyamantri Nishulk Nirogi Rajasthan Yojana, or Chief Minister’s Free Healthy Rajasthan Plan.

“There is carelessness at the hospital. They don’t look after patients well. They often refer them to Jaipur without even checking them. A relative of mine died… but, medicine and treatment are free,” claimed a woman at the makeshift counter.

‘She knows nothing’

The houses in Ranf look the same, except the one at the end of the muddy path. On the way to that mansion-like temporary residence – inhabited by the BSP’s Bharatpur candidate Anjila Jatav – is a rusty signboard for the PM’s rural road scheme surrounded by stagnated water.

The lawn inside the house has a photograph of Anjila Jatav with the BSP’s poll symbol, near her election office under a tent. 

The BSP candidate, who lives with her family in Delhi, has moved to Bharatpur because of her debut Lok Sabha election. She said she has never faced casteism and admits that she was told to announce her surname ahead of the polls. Anjila, however, asserted that she has better educational qualifications than the BJP candidate, who won the Lok Sabha polls in 2004, and the Congress’s Sanjana Jatav, another first-time candidate.

If she wins the election, Anjila, an M Tech in thermal engineering, said she will first focus on the availability of potable water.

Asked about the BSP’s refusal to join the INDIA opposition bloc, the succession of Mayawati’s nephew Akash Anand, or Hindutva politics, Anjila relied on education and development to parry all queries.

“Religion, temple, mosque are processes that bind you. You can have faith in them, find peace from them but they cannot bring you development. Education is necessary for development. A temple will lead to more beggars. A temple won’t bring welfare. I don’t want to ask for votes on a temple or mosque but on education.”

On Mayawati’s perceived silence on issues linked to constitutional liberties, she said that the BSP chief is not silent. “This is how the media is showing it. She is surely involved in some or the other strategy. People are confused; they are focusing on temple-mosque issues. This can be corrected with good education.”

Outside the residence, Meena sat on the low-height boundary wall of her house near Anjila’s home. “Don’t talk to her. She doesn’t know anything,” said the 40-year-old, who has moved to Maharashtra after marriage but has come to the village to meet her family.  “There is no road here; it is always filled with water. The school is fine but it is not better than Maharashtra… untouchability is widespread. When we go to fill water, our vessels are placed away.”

However, her daughter’s friend Meenakshi has hopes that Anjila will change things if voted to power.

Ranf, which houses nearly 600 families, is also home to nearly 40 Brahmin families, most of whom are satisfied with the BJP government’s performance.

Goond Ram praised Ranjeeta Koli. “She did good work but no one can fill the stomachs of another. She worked on the school and road…only Modi will return to power, no matter who you vote for.”

Nem Singh Fauzdar, the convenor of the Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, claimed the community is being misled by false promises and that’s why his outfit has launched the ‘Operation Gangajal’ campaign, as part of which people are being made to take an oath with the gangajal in hand to not vote for the BJP.

Return of the BJP despite Jat anger?

While Ramswaroop Koli remained unavailable for comment, The Mooknayak met Sanjana Jatav, a 25-year-old who may break Sachin Pilot’s record to be the youngest MP from Rajasthan if she wins the election. While her home is in Bhoosavar near Bharatpur, her in-laws live in Kathukumar in Alwar.

Sanjana Jatav had contested the last assembly polls and had lost with a thin margin of 409 votes. The politician who has studied law claimed she had requested the Election Commission for a re-count but they did not do it.

If voted to power, Sanjana said she will propagate the politics of development and also push for a Jat quota – a contentious issue in Bharatpur. The Manmohan Singh government had granted OBC quota to the Jats but the Modi government annulled it and is yet to include the community in the central OBC list despite the Vasundhara Raje government approving it in 2017.

The Jats in Bharatpur, meanwhile, seem to be divided.

Nem Singh Fauzdar, the convenor of the Jat Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti, claimed the community is being misled by false promises and that’s why his outfit has launched the ‘Operation Gangajal’ campaign, as part of which people are being made to take an oath with the gangajal in hand to not vote for the BJP.

“We made a resolution on December 25 and began our tour that day, resolving that if we do not get Jat reservation before the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct, we will initiate such a campaign. We are going to dozens of villages everyday and making appeals for the defeat of the BJP.”

There are fissures too between the Jats and the Jatavs – the two largest voting blocs in the constituency. In 1992, caste violence was triggered by a dispute inside a cinema hall. Sixteen Dalits were killed, 43 injured, 120 houses burnt, and during a 31-year trial, 32 of the 83 accused died and one turned fugitive. In September 2023, the Bharatpur SC-ST Special Court sentenced nine to life while acquitting the rest.

Fauzdar asserted that Jats are supportive of Jatavs, who have “the keys to the kingdom here”. “The Jats and the Jatavs are the most populous here. These communities can make anyone win or lose here if they come together,” said local journalist Akash Gupta.

However, a section of Jatav voters, just like many Jats from Bharatpur, are miffed with the BJP’s performance this time.

What does the incumbent MP have to say about the allegations?

When Ranjeeta Koli remained unavailable for comment on the phone for around four days, The Mooknayak visited her home in Bayana, 50 km away from Bharatpur.

The guard outside initially said that she was not home, but one of her staffers subsequently came outside and asked why we had come. Koli then agreed to meet us on the condition that the conversation will not be recorded.

Koli pointed to her efforts to put an end to the activities of the mining mafia in Bharatpur, and how she had toiled for the weaker sections and women. Asked about the BJP not giving her a ticket from Bharatpur, she said she had nothing against the party’s decision.

The MP was supposed to receive Rs 17 crore under the MP Local Area Development Scheme but got only Rs 7 crore. Of this, Rs 1.43 crore lies unutilised.

Journalist Akash Gupta claimed Koli had been absent from the constituency most of the time. “She frequently talks about attacks on her (by the mining mafia) but no one has seen them.”

Bharatpur will go to the polls in the first phase on April 19.

This report has been published as part of the joint NL-TNM Election Fund and is supported by hundreds of readers. Click here to power our ground reports. It was executed in partnership with Mooknayak, and you can support their journalism here.


Power NL-TNM Election Fund

General elections are around the corner, and Newslaundry and The News Minute have ambitious plans together to focus on the issues that really matter to the voter. From political funding to battleground states, media coverage to 10 years of Modi, choose a project you would like to support and power our journalism.

Ground reportage is central to public interest journalism. Only readers like you can make it possible. Will you?

Support now


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like