Moving from palace to politics: Meet Rajasthan's royals
The Jodhpur royal family has an illustrious record in electoral politics. The erstwhile maharaja of Jodhpur Hanwant Singh contested for the first time in 1952 and defeated the former chief minister of Rajasthan Jai Narayan Vyas.
Karni Singh, the former King of Bikaner, was among the first to take the plunge into electoral politics way back in the Lok Sabha elections of 1951-52. Singh's granddaughter, Siddhi Kumari, is now carrying on the legacy of the maharaja-turned-MP, having been elected twice as a legislator from the family's pocketborugh of Bikaner east on a BJP ticket.
The latest to jump into the bandwagon is the scion of the erstwhile Jaisalmer royal family Raseshwari Rajya Lakshmi, the wife of Maharawal Brijraj Singh. She announced her entry into politics on Jaisalmer’s 863rd foundation day on August 23 but is yet to join any party.
“People want me to serve them through politics. I have decided to contest,” she told reporters about her decision.
Raseshwari Rajya Lakshmi is a Sisodiya Rana princess of Nepal who got married to the Jaisalmer royal household in 1993. She would not be the first one from the Jaisalmer royal family to enter politics. In 1957, former Maharaja Raghunath Singh was elected to Parliament, while Hukum Singh completed two terms as MLA from 1957-67. Later, Chandraveer Singh, uncle of current scion Brijraj Singh was elected as MLA in 1980 followed by Dr. Jitendra Singh, who had a truncated term of three years (1990-93). Since then, no member of the Jaisalmer royal family could win an election.
The Jaipur royal family has a rich tradition of participating in electoral politics. Diya Kumari, daughter of the erstwhile maharaja of Jaipur, Brigadier Bhawani Singh (retd.), is a member of state assembly representing BJP. Her father Bhawani Singh had contested Lok Sabha elections in 1989 on a Congress ticket but lost.
“Diya has inherited the charm and political acumen from her grandmother Rajmata Gayatri Devi, one of the founders of Swatantra Party, who represented Jaipur parliamentary constituency from 1962 to 1971,” said Rajendra Khangarot, a political analyst.
The Jodhpur royal family has an illustrious record in electoral politics. The erstwhile maharaja of Jodhpur Hanwant Singh contested for the first time in 1952 and defeated the former chief minister of Rajasthan Jai Narayan Vyas. Later he died in a plane crash. His wife Krishna Kumari continued his legacy and became Member of Parliament from Jodhpur in 1971. Another scion of Jodhpur royal family Chandresh Kumari also carried on their legacy to become a Member of parliament from Jodhpur.
The royal family of Kota has also been active in politics. Former maharaja Brijraj Singh had been Member of Parliament (MP) from Jhalawar while his son Ijyaraj Singh is still active in electoral politics. He was elected as MP from Kota in the 2009 elections, but lost in 2014. Now he is again getting ready to contest the upcoming assembly elections.
Vasundhara Raje, who belongs to erstwhile Gwalior royal family and is married to former Dholpur royalty. is the most prominent among the royals in politics. She has been chief minister twice and a minister of state at the centre once. Her son Dushyant Singh is also an MP from Jhalawar-Baran.
"Her success in politics has encouraged royal families to involve more in electoral politics. She had been instrumental in bringing Bikaner's Siddhi Kumari and Karauli's Rohini Kumari to the Rajasthan assembly," said Rameshwar Singh, a Rajput historian.
Among the other prominent royals in politicians are scions of the Bharatpur royal family, Vishvendra Singh and his wife Divya Singh. Vishvendra Singh is a sitting MLA of the Congress, while his wife Divya Singh was elected MP from Bharatpur on a BJP ticket.
Jitendra Singh, member of erstwhile Alwar royal family. is also active in Congress. He was a minister in Manmohan Singh's cabinet before he was twice elected legislator from Alwar on Congress ticket.
"Rajasthan politics has been home to erstwhile royalties for long," Rameshwar singh said."Some of them see this as a way of protecting whatever remains of their royal legacies while others see it as a way to further their political careers."