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A total of 674 candidates are in the fray for 51 seats across 7 states in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha polls today, which will decide the fortunes of many political heavyweights like Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
In the constituency, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who is the sitting BJP MP and minister with independent charge of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and sports, will be up against the Congress’s Krishna Poonia, an international gold medallist in discus throw and a sitting MLA from Sadulpur in Rajasthan. While Rathore had won the silver medal in shooting in the 2004 Olympics, Poonia made her Olympic debut in discus throw that year and went on to compete in two subsequent editions of the games in 2008 and 2012. She finished sixth in the 2012 London Olympics, with her best throw of 63.62m coming in the fifth attempt. She also won gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Rathore, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Army in 2013 to join politics, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls for the second time. He has declared movable assets of 2.05 crore and 14 weapons, including ten 0.12 bore gun, one 0.357 pistol, one rifle, one 0.22 bore rifle and one 0.30 bore rifle.
Among these, one key contest will be unfolding in the Jaipur Rural seat which will witness what is being touted as a battle of two Olympians.
The two Olympians have unsparingly attacked each other in the run-up to the polls.“When I go out to campaign, they come forward to tell that Rajyavardhan Rathore had made promises but did not fulfil them. People show me proof of the promises Rajyavardhan Rathore has failed to keep,” Poonia had told the India Today TV channel. “I want to ask him [Rathore], has he enumerated the work done by him? But he has nothing to count upon. The biggest example that I want to give is of the national highway [connecting Delhi and Jaipur] on which there have been incidents on a daily basis. It has become a road of accidents and there is such heavy traffic on it. During the UPA government's tenure, approval for another national highway was given. When the government changed, the project was stopped,” she added. True to his party’s stand, Rathore is banking on nationalism to do well this time. “We were in the army, so we know what happened and what didn't. The whole army is standing with BJP's Modiji. They are not behind him for no reason. We know what happens there,” he has said. Hitting out at the Congress, Rathore recently said four generations of the party have been playing a ‘game with the country’. “After 60 years of ruling the country with four generations, they have come up with a slogan- ab hoga nyay. Ab? Toh tab kya ho raha tha? Was there a practice match going on for 60 years? There is a massive undercurrent for Modi. It is perhaps bigger than 2014,” he recently told the Times Now. Rathore has also made frequent references to the work he has done for sports — his election brochure says he has constructed 19 mini stadiums and 19 playgrounds in gram panchayats (village councils) around Jaipur Rural. The ‘Khelo India’ school games and the Rajasthan Khel Mahakumbh, a youth sports tournament, are two of his pet projects which he keeps referring to.
Rathore had won the Jaipur Rural constituency by a huge margin of 3 lakh votes against the Congress heavyweight CP Joshi last time.Now, 19.33 lakh voters of the seat, which goes to the polls today, will decide on the fate of the two Olympians who face off in a battleground of a different kind. This is the first time that two Olympians are up against each other as primary contestants in the country’s Lok Sabha polls. Also Read: Remembering the Baroda ruler who was India's first cricketer-turned MP Elections: A graveyard of reputations for former Indian cricketers