After a five-year wait, it finally good news for the Congress in Rajasthan. After witnessing a drubbing in the 2013 assembly polls, the Congress has bounced back in the desert state. In 2013, the Congress had won only 21 of the 200 seats in the state assembly, while the BJP had secured 162. In 2018, the Congress got 99 seats—one short of the halfway mark—and the BJP 73.
It really is a big win for the Congress, which has increased its vote share from 33.07% in 2013 to 39.3% in 2018, even as the BJP’s vote share declined from 45.17% in 2013 to 38.8% in 2018.
The Sachin Pilot magic
The main credit for the party’s return to fortune in Rajasthan should go to Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot, who over the last five years has traveled the length and breadth of the state to engage with voters and motivate party workers who were demoralised after the 2013 assembly ooll drubbing and the loss all 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 election. With the help of Avinash Pande, All India Congress Committee general secretary and Rajasthan in-charge, and the political acumen of former chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Pilot devised a strategy to corner the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government on many issues, including farmer loan waivers, corruption and jobs.
It would appear that the youth and new voters supported the Congress at the ballot over the unemployment issue and were drawn in by Pilot, who is emerging as a youth icon.
One cannot discount the role of anti-incumbency and arrogance in the BJP’s defeat in Rajasthan. Raje forget to engage with the media—never holding a press conference in the last five years—or her party workers. In fact, she only came out to meet BJP workers when the election was declared. The state government also failed to show any visible development, except for the roads. Besides, the anti-incumbency mood was directed to Raje’s government as well as the Narendra Modi-led Centre.
GST, demonetisation and farmer loans also became big issues in the state.
The traders and industrialists who are traditionally BJP supporters seem to have voted against the party because of the way GST was implemented.
There was even some anger among state government employees and pensioners, who total around 11 lakh and who were pushing for implementation of full recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.
The Rajputs have traditionally been BJP supporters, but lately shifted allegiance to the Congress. In the bypolls for the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha seats and the Mandalgarh assembly seat held earlier this year—all won by the Congress—the Rajput community voted against the BJP mainly over the manner in which Jaswant Singh, a founding member of the BJP, was treated by the party. The community was also angered by the encounter of gangster Anandpal and the manner in which the Union and state government handled its concerns with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavaat.
Even the, SC, ST and Jat communities have voted for the Congress in many parts of the state.
Kaun banega CM?
With Rajasthan in its kitty, attention is now on who the Congress will pick to lead the state government—Pilot or Gehlot. While the final decision will be made by party president Rahul Gandhi and other senior leaders, the situation is tricky. The Congress in Rajasthan is divided into two factions, one supporting Pilot and the other Gehlot, and it will be interesting to see how one camp reacts if the other is picked. But given that the Congress was able to hold its flock together ahead of the poll to wrest Rajasthan from the BJP, it is unlikely to do anything that could cost it the state.
Anil Sharma is a senior journalist and political analyst.
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