Congress won’t repeat 30% of Rajasthan MLAs, says party’s State chief

Govind Singh Dotasra says Congress will return to power on the back of welfare schemes of the Rajasthan govt., mocks BJP for fielding ‘failed’ MPs; he says party central leadership will decide CM after polls

October 16, 2023 03:28 am | Updated 10:19 am IST - New Delhi

Rajasthan Congress President Govind S. Dotasra. File 

Rajasthan Congress President Govind S. Dotasra. File  | Photo Credit: PTI 

The Congress is likely to replace up to 30% of its sitting MLAs in the coming Rajasthan Assembly election, the party’s State unit president, Govind Singh Dotasra, told The Hindu on Sunday.

Mr. Dotasra mocked the BJP for fielding “failed” MPs in the Assembly election to deflect an anti-incumbency trend against the Union government ahead of the Lok Sabha election in 2024.

Since 1998, Rajasthan has seen incumbent governments losing power in every election, but Mr. Dotasra claimed that the Congress would buck this trend on the back of welfare schemes the Gehlot government had launched in the State.

“Rajasthan will vote for continuity because they remember how the BJP government of 2013 abandoned the welfare schemes introduced by us in 2008,” Mr. Dotasra said, asserting that the Congress was not burdened by the “anti-incumbency” factor in this election. “They [BJP] played the role of an inert Opposition. The voters can’t recall seeing them on the ground.”

Though the Congress and the BJP are the only two dominant parties in the State, every Assembly election has seen over 15% of votes being garnered by smaller parties and Independent candidates, who are together clubbed under the “others” category.

In the 2018 election, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Left parties, the other regional parties, and the Independent candidates together won 17.09% of votes. In 2013, they won 17.5% of votes.

Mr. Dotasra said another factor which would ensure a Congress victory was that the vote share of the “others” would be minimised.

“We had the support of Independents, BSP, Left and the Bharatiya Tribal Party legislators. Even if their leaders may switch loyalties, I am confident that in this election, we will get 7%-8% of votes from this bloc,” he said.

A growing sentiment within the party is that disproportionate credit for the social welfare schemes launched by the Congress government in Rajasthan has gone to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, while the party MLAs are reeling under the “anti-incumbency” factor.

Not entirely agreeing with the sentiment, Mr. Dotasra said, “Our MLAs have worked hard to ensure that the government’s schemes serve every class, caste, and community. But it is only natural to bring in fresh blood. We might at the very minimum replace 20-30 sitting MLAs.”

The Congress’s Central Election Committee is meeting to decide the first list of candidates for Rajasthan on October 18. The party has around 3,000 claimants for the 200 seats.

The difference in vote-share between the BJP and the Congress in 2018 was a little over one per cent, and the BJP is putting all efforts to bridge this gap, including fielding seven MPs.

Mr. Dotasra said the BJP’s move should not be seen from the prism of Assembly election but from the perspective of the Lok Sabha election. “They have fielded their failed parliamentarians from seats that they have rarely won. They are going into the 2023 Assembly polls not to win, but to secure the 2024 election for themselves. If these MPs lose the Assembly election, they can’t ask for Lok Sabha ticket, so they will be automatically weeded out,” he said.

The Congress is also banking on the sidelining of former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhra Raje to cause a significant dent in the BJP’s electoral performance.

One would think that Mr. Gehlot would be the obvious Chief Ministerial face of the party. But Mr. Dotasra differs. “No! It is up to the party’s central leadership and the Congress Legislative Party after the election to decide who becomes the CM,” he said.

The Jats make up 16%-17% of the population in Rajasthan and Mr. Dotasra, a Jat leader, many insiders claim, cannot be ruled out of the Chief Minister’s race if the Congress returns to power and the Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot feud also continues.

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