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Rajasthan elections: Pokhran’s seer, junior cleric woo each other’s communities

This Rajasthan desert town known for India’s first and second nuclear tests is witnessing a close fight for its assembly seat between a Hindu seer and the son of a Muslim religious leader, with both making extra efforts to reach out to people from each other’s communities.

BJP has again fielded Pratap Puri, head of the Taratara ‘math’ in the Barmer district, against Congress’ sitting MLA Shale Mohammad, whose father Gazi Fakir is a Muslim religious leader.

Last time Mohammad won the seat by defeating Puri by a margin of merely 800 votes.

This time, more than 15,000 Hindu saints and seers from across the country have come to Pokhran to campaign and manage the election for the BJP candidate.

Puri hails from the Rajput community. He holds considerable influence in Barmer and Jaisalmer, while his opponents term him an outsider to Pokhran.

Also read | Poll battle: In South Rajasthan, tribals on centre stage with their own party

Interestingly, despite being religious leaders, both Congress and BJP candidates are making efforts to reach out to voters from religions other than theirs.

Locals say last time, after his victory, Mohammad had performed a ‘Jal Abhishek’ of a shivling at a temple here. This time also he regularly visits temples and never hesitates in having a ’tilak’ on his forehead. He concludes his speeches amid the chants of Jai Bajranbali.

Meanwhile, Puri, clad in saffron attire, is making efforts to reach out to Muslims, especially those who are upset with Mohammad. He is spending a sizable time in their localities.

Mohammad is counting on the development work, including the building of an agriculture college, road network, trauma center, and other infrastructure, taken up in the constituency under him to secure his re-election.

Puri is seeking votes in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national interest.

Puri is making special efforts to reach out to SC and ST communities and is having meals with them and staying in their homes. His supporters project him as Yogi Adityanath of Rajasthan.

The constituency has around 220,000 voters, including more than 60,000 Muslims and around 50,000 Rajputs. But many believe the SCs (mostly Meghwals) and STs (primarily Bheels), together accounting for 35,000 voters, and then OBCs (around 50,000) will become the deciding factor. The voting is scheduled for November 25.

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