Why the Congress lost Rajasthan

Despite their satisfaction with the Gehlot government, voters expressed negative sentiments on key issues. Also, Congress failed to forge an alliance with sub-regional parties

December 06, 2023 02:30 am | Updated 03:26 am IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during a roadshow in Jaipur on November 22, 2023. Photo: X/@narendramodi via ANI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves to supporters during a roadshow in Jaipur on November 22, 2023. Photo: X/@narendramodi via ANI

It is said that Rajasthan has a political history of picking alternate parties. This revolving door trend continued with the victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Despite a high degree of satisfaction with the Congress government, and Ashok Gehlot being the most preferred Chief Minister, the government lost the mandate on account of certain key factors.

When asked whether corruption had increased in the last five years in the State, 57% said ‘yes’. On asked how important the corruption factor was while deciding their vote, two-thirds said that it was important. Close to two-thirds of the respondents (64%) were upset about the price rise in the State. A majority of the respondents felt that ‘paper leak’ was a ‘very important’ factor for them in deciding who to vote for. Seven of every 10 respondents said that rising crimes against women was a matter of concern. This possibly explains why the BJP secured more support from women than the Congress (4 percentage points more).

The way in which the election campaign panned out in the State also appears to have made a difference. A little over one-fourth of the respondents said that they decided who they would vote for before the start of the campaign; of them, more than half voted for the BJP. Nearly two out of every 10 voters decided their voting choice after the candidates were declared; of them, more than 44% supported the BJP. As the election campaign picked up, support for the BJP kept increasing. The last-minute surge of support for the Congress could not compensate for the damage already done.

The election seemed to have been converted into a Narendra Modi versus Ashok Gehlot contest. Close to one-thirds of the BJP voters said that the Modi factor had influenced their vote choice. In the case of the Congress, Mr. Gehlot was a factor for more than one-fourth of the vote; the central leadership of the party had a limited impact. The Bharat Jodo Yatra and the issue of a caste census could not enthuse the voters.

The voting along clear party lines was evident from another trend. Two-thirds (67%) of those who said that they were fully satisfied with the Gehlot government voted for the Congress. Similarly, close to two-thirds (62%) who were fully satisfied with the Central government voted for the BJP. Three-fourths of those who were fully dissatisfied with the Congress government in the State voted for the BJP. Similarly, three-fourths of those dissatisfied with the Central government voted for the Congress.

While the vote shares of both the BJP and the Congress increased (2.84% and 0.23% respectively), this led to a disproportionate change in the share of seats. The Congress tally reduced by 30 and the BJP’s rose by 42 (Table 1).

Regarding regions, the BJP swept the Marwar (Jodhpur division), Mewar (Udaipur division), and Merwara (Ajmer division) regions, securing 59 of the 81 seats. The Congress salvaged some pride in the Dhundhar (Jaipur division), Baggad and Shekhawati belt (Bikaner division), and the Matsya region (Bharatpur division). But in the Haroti region, the BJP gained a massive lead over the Congress in both votes and seats. However, the gap between seats and votes was evident in most of the regions.

An important reason for the defeat of the Congress was its stubborn refusal to forge an alliance or share seats with sub-regional parties such as the Bharat Adivasi Party in the south, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the north, and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party-Azad Samaj Party combine in the western and eastern parts of the State. Apart from the fact that some of these parties are partners in the INDIA combine, they also saved the Gehlot government on a number of occasions in the last five years (Table 2).

While support for the Congress increased among older voters, the highest support for the BJP came from those aged below 25 (Table 3).

More than half of those who had the benefit of higher education voted for the BJP — nearly double of what the Congress secured. Welfare schemes helped the Congress only marginally. The Congress did better in urban areas than rural. There was a visible rich-poor divide: close to half the rich (48%) voted for the BJP while 45% of the poor endorsed the claims of the Congress. The BJP was ahead of the Congress in all the caste groups save the Dalits. The Congress did exceptionally well in garnering the Muslim vote (Table 4).

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