News Analysis | Other States

For Vasundhara Raje, a race against time

Joy tripled: Congress supporters celebrating the party’s victory in the byelections, in Ajmer last Thursday.

Joy tripled: Congress supporters celebrating the party’s victory in the byelections, in Ajmer last Thursday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

After the bypoll reverses, Rajasthan Chief Minister needs to fix things on both the policy and party fronts.

The ruling BJP’s embarrassing defeat in the byelections in Rajasthan has triggered a churn in the party, with senior leaders deliberating on the reasons for the triple drubbing — in one Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats. A beleaguered Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, already battling factionalism within the party and growing resentment among the people, has little time on her hands as she seeks to course-correct with Assembly elections scheduled for December this year.

At a core group meeting at Ms. Raje’s residence here on Friday, BJP leaders reportedly analysed the factors responsible for the shrinkage in the party’s traditional support base. While sections of the Rajput community had announced their support to the Congress much before polling day, the impact of the Centre’s decisions of demonetisation and GST rollout was described as a “worrisome trend” beyond the State’s control.

Farmers are also upset with the Raje government for its failure to act upon its announcement of agricultural loan waiver of ₹50,000 each. A committee appointed after a 13-day-long farmers’ agitation in the Shekhawati region is yet to take a decision despite having visited Kerala and other States to study their models.

Rebel concern

The party is also facing resentment from a section of its workers who are drawn towards the “Deendayal Vahini” front floated by rebel MLA and former Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari. The Sanganer MLA raised the banner of revolt after he was denied a Cabinet berth and his outbursts following the bypoll results were distressful for the BJP. Mr. Tiwari alleged that the party’s central leadership was shielding a “corrupt government” in Rajasthan and questioned Ms. Raje’s continuation in office.

Among the other factors responsible for the BJP’s defeat in Alwar and Ajmer parliamentary seats and Mandalgarh Assembly seat, according to political observers, are the bitterness among the business community, deteriorating law and order in semi-urban areas, enactment of a legislation to protect officers charged with graft and Gujjars and Brahmins turning against the party over reservation and other issues.

The voting pattern in the urban pockets depicted a marked shift away from the BJP. In Ajmer city, considered the BJP’s stronghold, the party lost Ajmer North by 6,975 votes and Ajmer South by 13,070 votes primarily because of the traders’ anger over loss of business and complications in filing of GST returns.

‘Cold shouldered’

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has maintained a distance from the Raje-led faction of the BJP ever since the party came to power in 2013. RSS volunteers were conspicuous by their absence during electioneering for the bypolls. They did not make any serious attempt to mobilise voters in the three constituencies. The “cold shoulder” given by Ms. Raje to RSS volunteers during ticket distribution in 2013 and her subsequent temple relocation drive in Jaipur are considered responsible for the Sangh’s aloofness.

The Opposition Congress, on the other hand, put up a united front during the election campaign. Party leaders, including Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot, built up an atmosphere against the BJP’s policies and programmes while cashing in on the resentment among different sections of the population.

In both Alwar and Ajmer, the Congress tried to forge new alliances with different caste groups in order to pose a fresh challenge to the BJP. The atmosphere was charged in Alwar in the wake of attacks on dairy farmers by cow vigilantes, while the contest in Ajmer was a direct one between Mr. Pilot and Ms. Raje.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 8:30:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/for-vasundhara-raje-a-race-against-time/article22646090.ece

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