Raje persuaded Diya Kumari, a scion of Jaipur palace whose royals are credited for building Sawai Madhopur, to join the party weeks ahead of the elections, to take on the Meena leader in his backyard.
    
Once a key minister in Raje's cabinet, he was expelled from BJP before the 2003 Assembly polls and played a key role in the party's defeat then and subsequent Lok Sabha elections by rallying the Meena community against it.
    
Meenas are said to be close to 10 percent of the state's population and politically most influential after Jat. Traversing the length and breadth of the predominantly rural seat day after day, Kumari is making it a point to connect with people, eating food with them, talking extensively to the voters, especially women, and asking them to rise above caste and religion to vote for their daughter.
    
The constituency's profile does not really suit the Rajput princess with neither Meenas nor Muslims, two most numerous communities which together account for over 45 per cent of total voters, being seen as BJP's natural voters. The party had come third in the last election.
    
But she believes different communities will come around her to defeat Meena's "self-promotional and divisive" caste politics.
    
"Do you think I would be doing all this hard work just to be an MLA if I was not interested in people's welfare," she said when asked to comment on the criticism that she was brought from Jaipur palace solely to help BJP politically.
 
As Kumari walked across Malarna Chour, a village of close to 5,500 voters, with a crowd following her, she touched on her family's link with them and how she is interested in nothing but their development.
    
"People want development. What good caste politics built around the domination of one group over others will do to them," she said in reference to her adversary's style, who advertises himself as a "dabang (strongman)" in posters.
    
BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had addressed a rally in the area in her support while Raje has been strategizing to plot her success.
    
Doctor sahib, as Meena is fondly called by his supporters, on his part is working to build a coalition of Meenas and other under-privileged communities to help him and other members of his National People's Party win in the tribal belt of the state.
    
He had lost narrowly to Congress candidate last time and later won Lok Sabha election from Dausa seat.
    
Congress has replaced its sitting MLA with Danish Abrar, son of former Union Minister Abrar Ahmad. Danish, seen by many as a lightweight parachuted from Delhi, is trying hard to make the contest a triangular one with the support of Muslims.
    
But the talk of the town presently is the fight between a princess and a formidable grassroots politician.
    
"I am your man. You vote for me and you are voting for yourself," he says, projecting himself as the leader of third force which will hold the key to power after elections.
    
Seen as a go-getter who does not mind bending the rules to get things done, Meena is also disliked by many for his abrasive style. Kumari believes many Meenas and Muslims, who nurse distrust for Meena, will vote for her.

(Agencies)

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