ith just a couple of days to go for the Rajasthan Assembly election 2018, things appear to be changing in Rajasthan’s politics. Only a couple of weeks before, the BJP was headed for a decisive defeat, but in the last leg, the contest appears to have become a close one with the BJP seemingly ahead in some areas.
Many political observers are also stunned to see these sudden winds of change. In fact, I’m surprised that even some Congressmen are now looking nervous. After this observation, I decided to do an analysis on the possible reasons behind the BJP gaining ground.
It’s an established fact that post-2014 the BJP has mostly outrun the opposition in the last leg after aggressive campaigns. This works in two steps. First, Narendra Modi’s aggressive rallies which normally bring additional 3-4 per cent votes. Then, the BJP and RSS cadres became hyperactive and start door to door campaigns. These cadres have very cordial relations with voters and are thoroughly able to convince them into voting for the BJP. This was seen in Gujarat and Karnataka Assembly elections.
Apart from that, there are many other reasons that are now emerging. Initially, although the people were angry with Vasundhara Raje, apparently there’s no anti-incumbency against the BJP or Narendra Modi. Even the people are saying that Vasundhara Raje has done a lot of developmental work. There’s hasn’t been a major scam or a riot. The only grievance from the public is that Raje is arrogant. However, with the party cadres reaching out to such people coupled with Narendra Modi’s popularity, the voters are expected to remain with the BJP.
Before the 2014 general election, the dominant caste groups such as Rajputs, Jats, Gujjars, and Meenas were rivals and voted for opposite parties. But Narendra Modi was able to bring all these rival castes under one umbrella of united Hindus. In 2013, the BJP’s vote share was 46.07 per cent whereas the Congress had a vote share of 33.6 per cent that is around 12 per cent difference. It will become difficult for the Congress to scale this difference particularly as Narendra Modi remains popular among all caste groups.
Also, Amit Shah has been working on non-dominating castes like Malis, Yadavs, Kumawats, Sindhis, Rebaris, Kalas, Dhakars, Dangi and others, giving them representation just like he did during the last UP Assembly election. Amit Shah knows that there could be some loss of votes due to SC/ST (PoA) Amendment Act from the united Hindu umbrella. This will compensate that loss.
The Congress’ problems started after the second list of contestants was declared. Widespread dissents started resulting in rebel candidates nominating themselves. It must be noted that even the BJP had rebel candidates. But the party’s followers generally don’t generally support rebel candidates. They either vote for the BJP or don’t vote at all. In case a BJP’s rebel candidate gets some votes it would mean that those are anti-incumbency votes which should have gone to the Congress. But whatever votes a Congress rebel gets would be a direct deduction from Congress’ vote share.
The Congress had adopted a very good strategy in Rajasthan that they will only attack Vasundhara Raje and not Narendra Modi because Modi enjoys enormous popularity. Many voters earlier openly said that they will vote for Modi in 2019 but not vote for Vasundhara Raje in 2018. But then, Congress leaders especially Rahul Gandhi and others started attacking Narendra Modi on caste, Hinduism and other issues. I think that’s a great mistake by Congress people because pro-Modi voters who wanted to vote for the Congress will definitely distance themselves now.
Then, it is an open secret that there’s factionalism inside Congress between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot. I don’t know whether this will damage Congress’ prospects or not but history says factionalism has never served good for any party.
Considering all the above facts, although it seems very difficult, but I will not be surprised if Vasundhara Raje retains power. The Congress losing the plot in the last leg is nothing new. Only a party like Congress can lose Gujarat as JD(U) veteran leader Pavan Verma says citing the Congress’s unnecessary attack to Narendra Modi during Gujarat Assembly election. In the second phase of voting, in fact, the BJP got all the numbers to win Gujarat with a slender margin.
So, the bottom line is that winning Rajasthan is no more a cakewalk for the Congress and I would not be surprised if the BJP retains the power. However, I wish that Sachin Pilot becomes the CM of Rajasthan if the Congress manages to win.
By Biranchi Narayan Acharya
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