There is a strong undercurrent of disquiet and unease as the people of Rajasthan line up to cast their vote. This unease is directed at the political class who have left no stone unturned to woo the electorate.
As Rajasthan goes to polls on Friday, the 4.75 crore voters will go on to decide the fate of 2,274 candidates. But the electioneering has been marked by endless rounds of barbs and counter-barbs from both the BJP and its arch rival the Congress who, the people here believe, have hardly addressed the key issues which are afflicting the common man.
The mood is summed up best by one of Jaipur’s most-loved women activists, Dr Renuka Pamecha. A political scientist and doyen of the women’s movement in Rajasthan, Paemcha has been running the Maheela Salah aur Surakasha Kendra from a woman's police station for several years. She pointed out, "I have been in this field for the last 45 years and I have never felt more disheartened in my life. Women are the last priority in this election. Incidents of violence against women and children have risen sharply as can be seen by stats of the National Crime Records Bureau but the state government under Vasundhara Raje has come up with no comprehensive rehabilitation policy for women who are rape victims or victims of domestic violence. What is the point of announcing scheme after scheme when there is no budgetary allocation for these schemes. They are least concerned about the fate of the women or our children."
Pamecha believes caste and vote bank politics are ruling the roost in the current elections. "The fact is that vote bank politics is in the forefront in our state and the women voters are going to be made to vote according to their caste. If the women are Rajputs, they will be told to vote for the Rajput candidate, if they are Jats, they will be told to vote for the Jat candidate. The only focus has been to polarise the voter and in that they are succeeding," said Pamecha.
The farmers voices from across the state sound even more embittered.
Fateh Singh from the village of Daulatpura near Jaipur is equally disenchanted. "Governments come and go. No one listens to us. Vasundhara has not paid attention to us nor is Modiji listening to us. Where is the water that we had been promised in the last elections? Groundwater has turned salty and is unfit for use. Those who can afford are buying water at Rs 20 per litre from tankers but for the rest of us, our wives and daughters are walking several kilometres per day to fetch water. The key question is how are we expected to grow crops without water? The men from my village and all our surrounding villages are migrating in search of work to Gujarat. The women are working under MNREGA as and when it is available. But today women recipients must have a Bhimasha Yojana card to be able to access these payments. We have ended up feeling destitute in our homes," said Singh.
Another farmer Ram Bharose, also from Daulatpura, is equally cynical of politicians and poll promises. "All our representatives, whether it be our MPs and MLAs are all immune to our hardships. Modi had promised to bring water to our khet ( farm) in 2014. But it has not reached us. In his speech on 5 December at Dausa the prime minister promised to link our canal with the Narmada. But I want to ask, if farmers in Gujarat are starved for water, how can he divert water to us."
Kavita Srivastava of People's Union for Civil Liberties feels the Congress is no match to Modi in perception management. "He has been saying different things in different places in Rajasthan which no leader in Congress has been able to equal. This high decibel campaign has been entirely emotive . There is a constant process of polarisation with minority issues having been swept under the carpet. In the 200 seats being contested, there are 25 seats in which punters are putting their bets on independent candidates many of whom are being propped by the BJP. No one knows who will sweep this state.’
There are also serious questions regarding the Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Scheme (MMJSS) which was launched in the first years of the Raje government. The scheme to provide water for several towns including Jaipur but it has not made the kind of progress that was expected. Last year saw a monsoon deficit in the state of Rajasthan and that has adversely impacted this water harvesting project.
But Sriram Vedire, chairman of the Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority believes this criticism is a little far-fetched especially since the MMJSS is working towards reviving plunging ground water levels as well as providing storage space for water that farmers can access.
Farmers also complain that their backbones have been broken by the successive increase in diesel prices given that when Modi came to power on 16.5.2014, the price of diesel was at Rs 55.49 per litre whereas today it is at Rs 75.25 per litre, an exorbitant increase of Rs 19.76 per litre. But the chief minister has made disel cheaper by reducing the price of diesel by rs 5..
The other major problem facing the youth of Rajasthan is employment which again the man-on-the-street believes has not been addressed by any political party. In fact, Association of Democratic Reforms has recently conducted a Survey on the Expectation of Voters of Rajasthan from their government. Rajasthan based Kamal Kak with ADR pointed out that the majority of people interviewed both in rural and urban parts of the state listed better employment opportunities being their number one priority. This has been followed by farmers demanding a more remunerative price for their products while people in cities want better health care and better policing in their cities.
Kak pointed out, "Both sides, ( Congress and BJP) have been involved in a blaming game. Emotional issues have come to the forefront with its focus on Hindutva along with its anti-minority slant. Amongst leaders probably Ashok Gehlot enjoys a good rapport largely because he introduced old age pension and also free medicine and diagnostic services in 2012. Both these schemes were put under the scanner by the present dispensation."
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also made a jibe against prime minister Narendra Modi when he addressed a rally in Always on 4 December saying that if the latter had provided the two crore jobs he had promised, four youth would not have committed suicide in Alwar. A problem by the police had revealed the boys allegedly jumped before a moving rain in a suspected suicide pact because they had no jobs.
Mewa Bharti who is heading the Mahila Kamgaar Union in Jaipur feels the voter today is not going to reveal what he is thinking. "Vo spasth nahi bol raha (he is not telling us clearly) on whose side he is. He is scared and will cast his vote secretly."
But whatever the public may say, there is a feeling on the ground that the chief minister’s recent decisions to provide free electricity and give farmers a loan waiver of Rs 50,000 will work in her favour. Farmers believe is she had taken this decision five years ago, when she had won the earlier election, it would have gone a long way in mitigating her reputation for being arrogant and an isolationist
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Updated Date: Dec 07, 2018 13:59:36 IST