Rajasthan has a history of repeats every five years – five years Congress then next five years BJP. But this time there are chances of Congress getting a second term, Bharat Jodo Yatra has played a crucial role in twisting the mandate. For Congress, Sachin Pilot is creating a problem because Ashok Gehlot doesn’t find fit for the profile of CM as he is too young. Recently Gehlot said to Sachin (inki ragdai nahi hui hain) this means Sachin is immature for such a prominent profile. For BJP, Vasundhara Raje is creating a problem – Her relation with Modi and Shah is not well. During the 2018 assembly election, we heard a slogan from locals that “Modi se bair nahi Vasundhra teri Khair nahi“. This means people also want some fresh face in Rajasthan, but it is not easy to ignore Vasundhra Raje – BJP should have some plans to shift her to the Central portfolios or declare her as governor of some state. Vasundhara also wants to retire from politics after this 2024 tenure.
She may not aim for any central portfolios or any other perks, her sole wish is to rule Rajasthan for one last time. From BJP’s end, Rajya Vardhan Singh Rathore can play some role here – according to some surveys; people want him as a CM face.
Rajasthan is facing several issues such as less power to municipal parties, cold response of MLA regarding development work, corruption is rising like there is no tomorrow, also some of the policies are not being helpful for middle and small class business person, unemployment is on rise, Paper leak is big curse, exams for government jobs are not held on time etc. The biggest advantage for the BJP is the infighting in the Congress and anti-incumbency. And one key issue it has been handed on a platter is the series of exam paper leaks in the state. There have been eight such instances, and even Pilot has hit out at the government on this issue.
Rajasthan has had a tradition of voting out the incumbent Govt since 1998. Congress was the beneficiary of this trend in 2018 but by 2023 Congress would be at the receiving end of this trend. And Ashok Gehlot’s government is not very popular to break this jinx. Most of his time and energy have been wasted in firefighting disagreement led by Pilot thereby letting governance go for a toss. But soon after Bharat Jodo Yatra, things got sorted. Congress collectively tried to win, forgetting their personal issues.
When it comes to BJP in Rajasthan, Modi and Shah are not in favor of Vasundhara. Whereas Vasundhara knows the nerves of people in the state. In such circumstances BJP in Rajasthan has the issue of leadership. The BJP top brass wants to do away with Vasundhara Raje and bring new leadership. With the weakening of Vasundhara Raje, parallel power centers such as Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Bhupender Yadav, Sunil Bansal, Satish Poonia have emerged in Rajasthan. There are chances that the BJP may contest the elections without declaring a chief ministerial candidate. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will, as usual, be the prominent face. As the elections are being held along with those in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, a few months ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the results will be really crucial for Rajasthan too.
The biggest mistake of Vasundhara these days is her frequent visits to RSS offices. Gone are the days where the RSS chief can take any decisions for the BJP or its leaders, now he is also a puppet in the hands of powerful people. Somehow BJP wants to change their choice of CM in the upcoming election else Congress would be ruling in Rajasthan again.
Right now, the main contenders for CM post would be Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, state BJP president Satish Poonia and Raje, among others. Despite backbiting within the BJP, it can pose a challenge if the party charts out a clear strategy that does not confuse the voters. This state is important for the BJP, particularly for Modi’s campaign, as it gave the NDA all 25 seats in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Modi has made four trips to the state in the past four months to shore up the party’s chances among various communities. Notably, he picked Dausa―part of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra and Sachin Pilot’s stronghold―to launch the first stretch of the Delhi-Mumbai expressway. He also went to Bhilwara to participate in the 1,111th birth anniversary of Bhagwan Devnarayan, revered by the Gurjars, who make up more than 10 percent of the state’s population. They had voted for the Congress in the last election hoping that Pilot would become chief minister.
The two recent appointees to the top constitutional posts in the country―President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar―would also help the BJP in the state. Dhankhar, as a Jat leader from Rajasthan, might get support from the community, who account for more than 12 per cent of the state’s population. The tribals, who constitute nearly 14 per cent of the population, are likely to be wooed in Murmu’s name. Rajputs make up 8 percent of the population. Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president J.P. Nadda, too, have made multiple trips to the state. Nadda, who has been insisting that the party units be more agile and engage with the people, has a special bond with Rajasthan―both his daughters-in-law belong to the state.
As the polls draw closer, the focus within the BJP will be on ticket distribution. How that process goes might decide which chief minister hopeful gets how many supporters in the fracas. These supporters would be crucial when a chief minister is picked, if the BJP gets a majority. And so, before the BJP goes to polls, it has to set its own house in order and craft a clear message for the voters.