162 in the bag, one more to add

Rajasthan pollsRathore, the BJP nominee in Churu. IE

The BJP is looking at bettering its already high score in Rajasthan with veteran legislator Rajendra Rathore contesting from Churu constituency, which goes to polls Friday. Rathore, who was named the prime accused in the fake Dara Singh encounter of 2006, held this seat from to 1990 to 2008. The sweep of the state with 162 seats has left the BJP optimistic he will win back his stronghold.

The election to Churu was deferred after the death of Jagdish Meghwal, the BSP candidate. The Congress won the seat in the last election.

Rathore has held important positions in the assembly. During Bhairon Singh Shekhawat's tenure from 1993 to 1998, Rathore was in independent charge of the health ministry. In 2004, during Vasundhara Raje's tenure, he was PWD and parliamentary affairs minister; in 2008, he was appointed the opposition's chief whip.

Rathore had been contesting from Churu since 1990 but in 2008, the party shifted him to Taranagar. This was before Rathore's name came up in the Dara Singh case. In April last year, he was arrested by the CBI and released a month later after being discharged by the trial court. With the dominant Jat community of Taranagar antagonised over the issue, Rathore has been sent back to his original seat.

Rathore has been close to Raje for years and she has ignored suggestions that he should be dropped or kept at arm's length. Should he win, Rathore is expected to get a ministry slot.

While the demoralised Congress appears to have already conceded defeat, with senior party leaders making barely any effort to woo voters in Churu, Raje has chosen not to rest on her laurels. On Tuesday, the chief minister-in-waiting set out to address a massive rally in the constituency .

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