By K I John
The Congress, on Thursday, clinched the Mandalgarh Assembly and secured a major victory in the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats in the Rajasthan by-polls. With regard to the Mandalgarh seat, although the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate was initially leading, he fell behind the Congress candidate and lost by a large margin. The loss in the two Lok Sabha seats was a setback for the BJP considering these were won with significant margins by the party in 2014. Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) under Mamata Banerjee, hammered the nail home, at West Bengal’s Naopara and Uluberia constituencies. In West Bengal, the BJP only managed to come second to the TMC, whose candidates won by large margins.
Rajasthan by-polls: How the elections panned out
In the wake of the Padmavat controversy, the Rajasthan elections were contested amidst turmoil. The enraged Rajput community accused the BJP of not exercising all its capabilities to stall the release of the movie.
Considering that the community has a strong influence in the Ajmer constituency with about two lakh members, Raghu Sharma of the Congress was able to defeat the former Union minister Sanwarlal’s son Ramswaroop Lamba of the BJP by 84,414 votes. This came as quite a shock due to the fact that in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won the seat by approximately 1.72 lakh votes.
The same was seen in the constituency of Alwar wherein Karan Singh Yadav of the Congress defeated labour minister Jaswant Singh Yadav of the BJP by 196,496 votes, as opposed to the 2014 election where the BJP won by almost 2.84 lakh votes.
In the Mandalgarh assembly by-election as well, the Congress candidate Vivek Dhakad defeated Shakti Singh Hada of the BJP by 12,976 votes.
In reaction to the election results, the former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, “Today’s trends can be seen as a precursor to not just state assembly polls later this year but also next Lok Sabha polls.” He added to good measure that “the Vasundhara Raje government hasn’t done anything in the past four years.”
The Congress perspective
The Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot was pivotal to the success of the party in the state. The win in Ajmer was noteworthy considering the fact that in 2014, it was he who had contested the seat and lost against Sanwarlal Jat, who passed away last year.
The election in Alwar was necessitated by the death of Member of Parliament (PM) Mahant Chand Nath Yogi, while the passing away of legislator Kirti Kumari caused the election in Mandalgarh. Congress President Sachin Pilot said, “Trends show that the people have given their blessings to the Congress and have rejected the Vasundhara Raje government and its policies.” In a comment on the divisive politics being played by the right-wing groups, he also noted that “young people have realised that the politics of polarisation doesn’t work.” He was also instrumental in winning a majority of the seat in by-elections to Zila Parishads, panchayat samitis and municipal wards in Rajasthan.
The Eastern Frontier
“No trace of the saffron party will be found even through a telescope after the Lok Sabha election in 2019,” said Mamata Banerjee at the party’s student youth convention. The TMC won a Lok Sabha and an Assembly seat in the by-election in West Bengal by a massive margin. In the Uluberia Lok Sabha constituency, the TMC candidate Sajda Ahmed defeated Anupam Mallick of the BJP by 4,74,023 votes to retain the seat for the party. The result was fairly similar in the Noapara assembly constituency, where TMC won by a huge margin. However, in this constituency, the party seized the seat from the Congress which had allied with the Left in the last assembly elections and bagged the seat.
The TMC candidate Sunil Singh won by a margin of 63,018 as he polled nearly 54% of all the votes cast. Claiming that West Bengal was the number one state as far as the rural economy, small-scale industries and several other sectors were concerned, the chief minister called upon the people of the state to vote for the TMC again in the upcoming panchayat polls.
The road ahead for national parties
The BJP took a big jolt in both Rajasthan and West Bengal, and many speculate a shift in power for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, although this may give some indication to a changing mindset, an aggregate of all aspects must be considered before a speculation can possess the effect of reality. With victories in states such as Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, the BJP still holds ground. Yet in those states as well, the Congress made great bounds regardless of the outcome. Hence the upcoming elections in 2018 and the way in which they play out will define the political landscape of 2019.
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