RAJASTHAN is a cultural, historical and political region that has a strong regional identity. The modern Rajasthan is now 70 year old after its formation on March 30, 1949. The state inherited caste conflicts, caste and communal bias and the new state initiated into democratic India went to the Lok Sabha poll in 1952 on casteist lines and no political party could survive without choosing the caste path. The Lok Sabha election this time would once again witness the electoral battle fought, won and lost on these lines.
The ruling Congress, which came to power by securing half per cent more votes than the BJP in the Assembly election a few months back, should have enjoyed an edge. But in spite of being in power, the Congress is not enjoying any edge as nationalism is overpowering local sentiment. The December 2018 Assembly election was fought on the issue of anti-incumbency and the unpopular image of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and the corrupt government that she led.
But the Congress government has not been able to make any significant impact except fulfilling the Assembly poll eve promises of loan waiver, unemployment allowance and other small promises. While the BJP is counting on cashing in on nationalism and religious issues, even politicisation of the armed forces, the Congress would go to the poll with its “manifesto that promises marrying wealth with welfare”.
“The BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll and under a new Modi wave promised jobs and other sugarcoated stuff and the youth of the country fell for Modi. However, all the promises proved to be hollow. We have come out with a realistic manifesto and the party if it comes to power would fulfill all the promises. We shall go to the poll with the manifesto as the Bible,” said Archana Sharma, Pradesh Congress vice president.
In the 2014 general election, riding on the Modi wave, BJP swept the polls in Rajasthan winning all 25 parliamentary seats. In the 2018 assembly elections, the Congress gained 79 seats to take its tally to 100 and emerge as the single largest party in Rajasthan. This was a reversal from the 2013 assembly polls when the BJP had won 163 seats.
A study of the voting pattern of 2018 Assembly would give the Congress 11 seats, BJP seven seats and as a large number of Independents and smaller parties won 26 assembly seats, there is no clarity as to who would win the remaining seven seats.
Both the parties have fielded candidates on caste lines in the Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kota, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Ajmer divisions. The Jaipur division comprises six parliamentary constituencies—Jaipur City, Jaipur Rural, Alwar, Jhunjhunu, Sikar and Dausa. The Congress gained considerably in this region in the Assembly poll, particularly in Jaipur, Jhunjhunu and Sikar districts.
THE six parliamentary constituencies in Jaipur division comprise 50 assembly seats, of which 30 are with Congress, BJP (10), BSP (3) and Independent (7), of which majority are Congress rebels. Thus going by December trends, the Congress is happily placed in Jaipur division. But in Alwar, the Congress could win only four out of the 11 seats and the BJP—which had in 2013 poll won 10 out of the 11 seats—could win only two seats. Thus in Alwar, where the Congress has fielded Jitendra Singh, a close associate of Rahul Gandhi and a scion of the Alwar royal family, will find the going tough because of the presence of the BSP that may erode its Muslim votes.
Two sports celebrities will contest the Jaipur Rural seat—the sitting BJP Union sports minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore will face Commonwealth Games gold medal winner in the women’s discus throw Krishna Poonia. Rathore is the silver medalist of the 2013 Athens Olympic in the shooting event and Krishna has represented the Olympics on three consecutive occasions and has won the bronze medals in the Asiad twice. The Jaipur Rural seat thus has suddenly become a hot seat attracting the country’s attention as it would witness “polimpics”. Krishna is a Congress legislator and the party has fielded her to challenge the might of a shooter with the disc.
Rathore in 2014 was fielded from Jaipur Rural seat at the instance of the former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, where he defeated the then Union minister CP Joshi by over 3.5 lakh votes. Joshi is currently the Speaker of Vidhan Sabha. The Pradesh Congress had taken a policy decision that no legislator will be given a ticket for Lok Sabha poll, but it made an exception in the case of Poonia. She was strategically chosen to contest as the Jaipur Rural seat has over 4.5 lakh Jat voters and Poonia is a Jat. The party hopes to get overwhelming support of Jats and 2-lakh strong Meena community votes, 2.5 lakh Scheduled Caste, 1 lakh Muslims and 3.5 lakh Yadav votes. Poonia has good prospects here as in the last December election the Congress had won five of the eight Assembly segments seats.
The Marwar region has always been politically proactive and it had contributed immensely during the freedom movement. The region has seven districts—Jodhpur, Pali, Jalore, Sirohi, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Nagaur. The region, which has 43 assembly seats and five Lok Sabha seats, has given three Chief Ministers—Jai Narayan Vyas, Barkatullah Khan and Ashok Gehlot.
The Modi wave in 2013 saw the rout of the Congress the Marwar region despite the presence of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The rout of Congress was so bad that out of the 43 assembly seats, it could win only three seats, while the fourth seat was won by an Independent. In 2014 Lok Sabha poll, the Congress failed to win any seat.
Gehlot has chosen to field his son Vaibhav Gehlot from Jodhpur, a seat that he has won five times. His opponent will be Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. But as Vaibhav’s rival is a Rajput and the dominant Jat and the Bishnoi community are not fully in support of Gehlot, the son might find the going tough.
In Barmer, Manvendra Singh, who switched over his loyalty from the BJP to the Congress, will contest this border seat from where he was elected to the Lok Sabha once. The Congress is also facing a tough fight in Pali, Sirohi-Jalore and Nagaur seats, which were won by the BJP in 2014.
In the Mewar region, the Congress has not performed well in the two tribal seats of Banswara-Dungarpur and Udaipur. The Congress is also not comfortably placed in the remaining seats of Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Bhilwara.
Kota division is the home turf of Vasundhara Raje; she was elected to the Lok Sabha from Jhalawar on five occasions. Now her son Dushyant Singh represents the seat. The Hadauti region has three seats and the going is tough for the Congress in this saffron region.
The Bharatpur division has three seats—Dausa, Karauli and Bharatpur. All these seats are represented by the BJP. However, the Congress has fielded new faces from these constituencies, which are all reserved for the SC and ST.
Deputy Chief Minister and the PCC president Sachin Pilot, who represents the Tonk constituency, has his prestige at stake in the Sawai Madhopur-Tonk constituency where the party has fielded a Meena. In Bikaner division, there are three seats; Bikaner and Ganganagar seats are SC reserved. Here the Congress is better placed then the BJP.
Thus the going for the Congress is tough and the BJP enjoys a certain edge in the state. While winning all the 25 seats again is a tough ask for the BJP, it is expected to perform better as the Congress is likely to find it tough to even get into double figures.