Lok Sabha and Rajasthan

Nawed Akhtar

Rajasthan is expected to be a swing state in 2019, if one compares it with the last general elections held  in 2014. The influencing  factors are, past electoral performance, incumbency index, caste combination and current mood at the ground level.

A close look at the results of the recently held 2018 Assembly elections show that there is not much difference in the support base and percentage of votes secured by the two main parties in Rajasthan. BJP got 38.8 and Congress 39.3 votes, but Congress seems to be on the upswing and is expected to get more votes than it secured in the assembly elections. Congress has declared its candidates for all constituencies with caste combination in consideration. Both parties have valiantly  endeavoured to get the caste balance right.

Going by the assembly results some seats more likely to come to Congress are: Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur city, Sikar, Barmer, Bharatpur, Alwar, Bikaner, and Banswada, while BJP has better prospects in Udaipur, Kota, Jhalawar, Jaipur Rural, Jodhpur and Chittor.

The seats of Dholpur, Churu, Ajmer, Rajsamand, Ganganagar, Bhilwada, Jalore, Pali, Nagaur, and Jhunjhunu are more likely to take the swing away from BJP which had all the 25 seats in its kitty in 2014.

The factors going against the BJP are anti-incumbency of its MPs and residual anger  against the Vasundhare Raje government’s failure to look into the problems faced by farmers, and the realisation among people of the hollowness of BJP’s promises and shrillness of its patriotic and national discourse. The hopes of the people were not only dashed but many hardships came their way, like demonetisation and GST. No one could ever imagine an almost clean sweep of Jaipur’s assembly seats by Congress as Jaipur has been a BJP stronghold for quite some years. The trading community of Jaipur in particular, and other towns in general, have voted for Congress too and this can be attributed to the Demonetisation-GST combo served up by the Modi government. Despite all this, Modi has managed to remain the most preferred candidate for PM-ship.

Caste-wise, Congress has managed to garner some votes from the Rajput and Bania communities. It has fielded Jyoti Khandelwal from Jaipur who commands a vote bank on her on. Manvendra  Singh is another formidable candidate from Barmer who left BJP to join Congress is the son very respectable and popular  former central minister Jaswant  Singh. Another interesting contest is between Chief Minister Ashok Geloth’s son Vaibhav and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat currently a minister in Modi government. This has become a high profile high stake contest for CM and BJP both.Meenas have been rewarded with four tickets for their loyalty to the Congress and can influence around 10 constituencies.

BJP faced some trouble in getting the right candidate in some constituencies and encountered some dissidence as in the case of Tonk-Sawai Madhopur. Ajit Mehta, MLA in the previous assembly, was opposing incumbent MP Jaunapuria’s re-nomination. Informed sources, on condition of anonymity, have said that the RSS had to intervene to bring about a truce between Ajit Mehta and Jaunapuria.

Jats, who had supported BJP in 2014, are a divided lot this time and their votes may be picked up by both the parties, with an edge to Congress.

Overall it is even Steven as of now. Who knows – the news of Pakistan’s not losing any F-16 as claimed by the Modi government, may bring about some change in the voters’ perception.

(Nawed Akhtar is a film maker and political analyst based at Gurgaon.)

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