Jaipur, Nov 21 (PTI) A two decade-old pending demand for a railway line is the key poll issue for voters in Rajasthan’s Tonk, which has become one of the most keenly watched assembly constituency in the state with Congress leader Sachin Pilot pitted against BJP state Minister Yoonus Khan.Also Read - No Dream is Too Big: Rahul Gandhi Gives Airplane Tour to Kerala Boy Who Wants to Become a Pilot | Watch Video

Tonk, which shares boundary with Jaipur, Ajmer and Sawaimahopur, has been waiting for a direct rail line for many years with leaders promising to put the constituency on the railway map every election. Also Read - Pakistan PM Imran Khan To Take Vote of Confidence From The Assembly after Facing Defeat in Senate Elections

Both Pilot and Khan are outsiders for the Muslim-dominated constituency and are leaving no stone unturned to ensure their victory. Also Read - Air India's All-women Pilots Team Creates History by Flying Over World's Longest Route

After Congress announced Pilot’s name in Tonk against sitting BJP MLA Ajit Singh Mehta, the BJP changed its strategy and fielded Khan, terming it a masterstroke against Congress’s move to field veteran BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son Manvendra Singh in Jhalrapatan, from where Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is contesting.

Situated on NH-12 at a distance of 102 km from the state capital, Tonk is not connected with a rail line and people of the city want Tonk to be on the rail map in order to get better connectivity and economic boost.

Rail line is the major issue in Tonk and I have assured people that the Congress government will take up the matter on a serious note. When I represented Ajmer as Member of Parliament, the Kishangarh airport project was started and Ajmer was connected with many new trains and people understand this and hope that Tonk will soon be connected with rail line when Congress comes to power, Pilot told PTI.

I have travelled more than 5 lakh km by road across the state ever since I was given the responsibility of PCC chief in 2014 and have assessed that the government did not work to improve infrastructure. After filing nomination papers, I visited more than 10 gram panchats on Tuesday and condition of roads in Tonk is really very bad. Besides, Tonk lacks water, both for irrigation and drinking, and Congress will take up works in Tonk on priority after formation of government, he said.

The Congress has this time fielded a Hindu candidate in Tonk, where Muslim voters are estimated to be 70,000 out of the total 2.22 lakh.

The party decided to field Pilot, who is seen as the party’s chief ministerial candidate, from Tonk with an eye to influence assembly seats in nearby districts in eastern parts of the state.

Tonk is a good seat for me to contest which touches Ajmer and Dausa. There were requests from 13-14 districts and the party decided Tonk. We will win significant number of seats in entire Rajasthan and particularly in the eastern parts, 41-year old Pilot, who has represented Dausa and Ajmer Lok sabha seat, said.

On his contest with BJP candidate and minster Khan, who BJP’s only Muslim candidate, Pilot said it was a fight of ideologies and not that of candidates.

The contest is between ideologies and parties. Candidates are just a medium, he said.

Khan, a two-time MLA, was keen to contest from his present Deedwana constituency but his name was not announced in four lists till November 18. When the Congress announced Pilot’s name on November 15, the BJP changed its strategy and asked Khan to contest from Tonk and declared his candidature on November 19, on the last day of filing nominations.

I wanted to contest from Deedwana but I am a solider of the party and the party sent me to Tonk in a change of strategy. I have talked to party workers, people here and everyone is excited and committed to BJP’s victory here, he said.

Khan said the fight in Tonk was that between ‘Sewak’ and ‘Swami’, while referring to himself as ‘Sewak’ (servant of BJP) and Pilot as ‘swami’ of Rajasthan Congress.

I can give an assurance that Pilot’s plane will not land in Tonk. He will only be in the air, he said.

Akbar Khan, president of the Rail Laao Sangharh Samiti Dalit Sena, said people of Tonk have been demanding a rail line for over two decades and every political party makes promise but no concrete development happens.

He said a survey for 165-km rail line between Chauth Ka Barwara (Sawaimadhopur) to Ajmer, which proposes to pass from Tonk, has been conducted and a decision on land acquisition is pending with the state government.

The state government took no decision for the land acquisition and no further progress took place. Economic development will get a boost and connectivity will improve if the rail line is laid in Tonk. At present, there is no major industry and economic growth is also very less, Khan said.

Tonk district has four constituencies – Tonk, Malpura, Niwai and Deoli-Uniara. All four seats are with BJP.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.