A princess who will be Deputy Chief Minister

The political landscape in Rajasthan sees the resurgence of royals, with Princess Diya Kumari appointed Deputy Chief Minister

Winning by a significant margin in the recent Vidhan Sabha elections, Diya Kumari (pictured) , a seasoned legislator, is joined by dalit leader Prem Chand Berwa as the second deputy CM (Photo: @Nitishvkma/X)
Winning by a significant margin in the recent Vidhan Sabha elections, Diya Kumari (pictured) , a seasoned legislator, is joined by dalit leader Prem Chand Berwa as the second deputy CM (Photo: @Nitishvkma/X)

Prakash Bhandari

The recent political shift in Rajasthan has marked the resurgence of the royal figures in their renewed roles. Princess Diya Kumari of Jaipur, who secured an impressive victory with a substantial margin of over 71,000 votes in the recent Vidhan Sabha election from Jaipur's Vidyadhar Nagar seat, has been appointed as the Deputy Chief Minister, holding the second-highest position under Chief Minister designate Bhajan Lal Sharma. As part of the BJP's social engineering program, the second Deputy Chief Minister position will be held by Prem Chand Berwa, a dalit from the cobbler community.

Diya Kumari, who was a member of the Lok Sabha from Rajsamand was asked by the party to contest the Vidhan Sabha election along with six other members of Parliament.

Diya Kumari secured her second term as a member of the Vidhan Sabha, having previously served in 2013. Notably, other accomplished individuals like Princess Siddhi Kumari, a postgraduate who became an MLA in 2008, did not receive similar recognition. Similarly, Kalpana Devi, a second-time MLA from Ladpura in Kota and scion of the Kota royal family, was not favored. Vishva Vijay Singh, a first-time MLA and scion of the Mewar royal family of Udaipur, also did not receive any preference over Diya Kumari.

“She has been made the deputy Chief Minister as she had a very good record both as a legislator and as a member of the Lok Sabha. She did a wonderful job for her Lok Sabha constituency which is spread over four districts and its huge in size in terms of area" said Surendra Singh Rathor, a BJP worker.

Following the relinquishment of their thrones post-independence, the various principalities not associated with British India chose to align with the Indian Union under the official order of the Union government, led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This merger played a pivotal role in the integration of an independent India, embarking on the task of crafting its constitution.

The princes, having lost their thrones, faced a crucial crossroads. Those with foresight opted to participate in the political landscape of the new India, ensuring their continued visibility, while others risked fading into obscurity. Rajasthan, encompassing 22 princely states such as Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Udaipur, Kota, Alwar, Bharatpur, Karauli, Jaisalmer, Dungarpur, Banswara, Sikar, and Khetri, witnessed a transformative process as these states merged to form the foundation of the present-day state.

As interim governments took shape in the princely states, the subsequent formation of the Rajasthan state was marked by the amalgamation of these 22 states. Notably, when the country held its inaugural elections, former princes actively participated in the political system. Maharaja Hanwant Singh of Jodhpur conceptualized the Ram Rajya Parishad party, fielding candidates, including himself, in the first Lok Sabha election. While several nobles (Thakurs) contested on behalf of the party, states like Jaipur and Udaipur opted not to join.

Dr. Karni Singh of Bikaner, contesting as an independent candidate, emerged victorious. The Ram Rajya Parishad, primarily representing the Rajputs, saw participation from Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. Despite his Rajput background, Shekhawat chose to contest as a nominee of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh, a precursor to the BJP, distinguishing himself from the Ram Rajya Parishad.

The Ram Rajya Parishad, which initially secured 24 seats in the inaugural Vidhan Sabha election of 1952, witnessed a decline in the subsequent 1957 election, with many members either losing to Congress candidates or choosing not to contest. A significant number eventually shifted allegiance, joining and contesting as Congress candidates.

In contrast, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur took a different path by founding the Swatantra Party, attracting numerous Rajput princes and nobles. For a decade, the Swatantra Party emerged as a formidable force, posing a considerable challenge to the ruling Congress. However, by 1972, the party gradually faded, and several of its members transitioned to either the Congress or the Bhartiya Jan Sangh.

Dr. Karni Singh independently contested and secured a seat in the Lok Sabha five times, showcasing his enduring political presence. Maharaja Bacchu Singh of the Bharatpur royal family also contested and emerged victorious.

While the son of the former ruler of Udaipur, Bhagwat Singh, supported the Swatantra Party, he chose to refrain from direct electoral politics. On the other hand, Mahendra Singh contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Chittorgarh, but experienced defeat in his second attempt.

The decline of the Swatantra Party during the emergency prompted Gayatri Devi, who had endured incarceration during that period, to withdraw from politics. Nevertheless, her stepson, Maharaja Brig Bhawani Singh, the last Maharaja of Jaipur, joined the Congress at the behest of the late Rajiv Gandhi. However, in a surprising turn of events, he contested the Lok Sabha election only to lose to a commoner from the BJP, Girdhari Lal Bhargav. This outcome was a stark disappointment for the people who were once his subjects.

But his daughter Diya Kumari, took a significant step by joining the BJP in 2013, encouraged by the former Chief Minister. She entered the political arena by contesting the Vidhan Sabha election and achieved a notable victory against the heavyweight candidate Dr. Kirori Lal Meena from the Meena community.

Diya Kumari's personal life became a subject of public attention when she chose to marry a commoner, Narendra Singh, a small employee at Jaipur's City Palace. This decision sparked protest within the Rajput community, opposing the union of a princess with a commoner. Despite the initial discord, Diya Kumari and Narendra Singh became parents to three children – two sons and a daughter.

However, the marriage encountered challenges, leading to misunderstandings and disputes. Diya Kumari's eldest son, Padmanabh Singh, was adopted by her grandfather, Brig Bhawani Singh, inheriting the extensive estate of the Jaipur royal family. Educated in England, Padmanabh Singh followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-grandfather, excelling as an ace polo player who represented India in the polo World Cup.

The marital discord escalated to the point where Narendra Singh, living in the City Palace with Diya Kumari and their children, was compelled to leave. After a temporary resolution, Diya Kumari obtained a divorce from Narendra Singh in 2018, securing the right to the custody of her children.

Vasundhara, too, shares a history of divorce. After a prolonged separation from her husband in 1973, she mutually divorced in 2007. Both Vasundhara and Diya Kumari found themselves entangled in a public dispute during Vasundhara's tenure as Chief Minister between 2013 and 2018. Allegations surfaced that Vasundhara sought to acquire the Raj Mahal palace, converted into a hotel, for a negligible sum, a move vehemently resisted by Diya Kumari.

Now, wielding power as Deputy Chief Minister, Diya Kumari is poised to address numerous property disputes with the Rajasthan government. Properties such as the old Vidhan Sabha, the state secretariat, and several other offices were initially allocated by Maharaja Sawai Man Singh of Jaipur to the Rajasthan government for use, but these properties have yet to be reverted.

In response to her new role, Diya Kumari expressed, "I contested the Vidhan Sabha election as the party asked me to do so, and I accepted the position of Deputy Chief Minister as I believed it was a meaningful way to serve not only the people of Jaipur but the entire state of Rajasthan. The orders of the BJP are supreme to me, as I am a disciplined soldier of the party. The development of Vidyadhar Nagar, a newly developed township in Jaipur, will be my foremost priority."

Meanwhile, Siddhi Kumari, aged 50, hailing from the Bikaner royal family and the granddaughter of the late Dr. Karni Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner and a five-time Lok Sabha member, brings her own political legacy. Serving as a three-time MLA from Bikaner, Siddhi Kumari, a postgraduate, manages the estate of the former royals and remains unmarried.

Reflecting on her political lineage, Siddhi Kumari remarked, "I have witnessed my grandfather, a prominent public figure and member of the Lok Sabha. My grandmother is the daughter of Maharawal Laxman Singh of Dungarpur, a notable leader of the Opposition for several years and a former Speaker of the Rajasthan Assembly. Thus, I understand the nuances of politics and how to effectively work for the masses as their representative."

Kalpana Devi, a scion of the Kota royal family, emerged victorious from the Ladpura constituency in Kota district in 2018, and she has once again been nominated by the BJP. Her husband, Ijjyeraj Singh, is a former Lok Sabha member who secured victory on a Congress ticket from Kota. Adding to her political lineage, Kalpana Devi's father, Brijraj Singh, a former ruler of Kota, held the Lok Sabha seat from Jhalawar thrice as a nominee of the Jan Sangh. The Jhalawar seat, once represented by Vasundhara Raje and now by her son Dushyant Singh, reflects the historical political landscape.

Vasundhara Raje, who served as Chief Minister for two terms, appears to have passed the baton, as the BJP now focuses on promoting Diya Kumari, signaling a shift in the party's leadership dynamics.

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