Rajasthan Assembly polls: Congress poised to win battle, but it has Vasundhara Raje to thank, not Rahul Gandhi

The BJP's catchphrase for the Rajasthan Assembly Election to be held on 7 December is a simple one – “Bhajapa Phir se”. The emerging equations on the ground, however, indicate that it will be difficult for the party to turn the slogan into reality and ensure the return of a government led by Vasundhara Raje.

Winds of change seem to be blowing over the political landscape in Rajasthan, and it appears that the Congress' prolonged drought in terms of electoral successes may come to an end.

The BJP had swept the election in 2013, winning 163 out of a total of 200 seats. This was a strike rate of nearly 82 percent. The Congress had managed to win only 21 seats. If the results this time go in favour of the Congress, which is the most likely scenario, the party should thank Raje, rather than its organisational strength or Rahul Gandhi’s appeal.

 Rajasthan Assembly polls: Congress poised to win battle, but it has Vasundhara Raje to thank, not Rahul Gandhi

File image of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. PTI

As the incumbent chief minister and the BJP's chief ministerial candidate for the next term, Raje is obviously the most talked-about person in the context of the state's politics. As far as she is concerned, what matters most is popular perception, rather than what she did for the state, how she governed or what her attitude was like.

Inside the university campus in Jaipur, a group of female students were engaged in a lively chat at a café, and were commenting on an news report. Megha Chaudhary, a post-graduate student, argued that Raje had tremendous opportunities to take the state to greater heights, but she failed. She listed out a series of issues before delivering her final verdict — this time, she will not vote for Raje and she is keen to see a change in leadership in the state. She was clear that she would vote for the Congress this time.

She further opined that the situation may have been different had the BJP acted in time, and replaced Raje a year ago, or even some months ago. Her friends nodded in agreement.

Outside the campus, two B.Sc students — both first-time voters — spoke about their voting preferences. One of them, Rahul Meena, asserted, "Raje will not come back to power, that's for sure. My vote will go to the Congress, and the Congress is going to come to power in the state. I am no admirer of Rahul Gandhi, but a Congress government in the state will be beneficial. The party's state leaders are good. Let’s see who becomes the next chief minister, Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot."

The situation is similar in Alwar, which recently saw flared communal sentiments after the lynching of Pehlu Khan and the activities of cow vigilantes. In the district's Tijara town, Sunder Singh Chaudhary says that he believes in Hindutva and does not want to see the Congress come to power. However, he will not vote for the BJP because of two reasons. Firstly, he is not happy with the way Raje has run the state, and secondly, the BJP denied a ticket to Sandip Yadav, the incumbent MLA and an important party leader. Yadav has switched sides and is contesting on a BSP ticket. Chaudhary says he wants to vote for him, but is worried that if there is a hung Assembly, the BSP will side with the Congress, no matter what Yadav says now. He says, “They have made me confused, and also slightly tense. Let’s see how it goes.”

A combination of things go against the chief minister. Many people have different reasons for being opposed to her, but on the whole, the voices seeking a change in leadership are echoing far and wide. The assertiveness and conviction in these voices should be a cause of concern for the BJP leadership. Most voters are not as angry at the BJP as they are at her.

A small businessman near Aligarh remarked, “In the past several months, it has become clear that Raje is no longer liked as the chief minister. The people gave signals in this direction during the by-elections, but nobody in the BJP's top leadership cared. So, the BJP will hear its own slogan being changed to 'abki baar, Rajasthan mein Congress sarkar'”.

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Updated Date: Dec 01, 2018 08:55:06 IST