Yes, No, It's Complicated |

Will the BJP lose Rajasthan?

BJP President Amit Shah with party leader Arjun Ram Meghwal during a roadshow, in Bikaner, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.   | Photo Credit: PTI

YES | Pawan Khera

The BJP’s renewed recourse to emotive issues is an acknowledgement that it is staring at defeat


Will the BJP win in Rajasthan is like asking whether Narendra Modi will become the U.S. President. The reason for the imminent defeat of the BJP in Rajasthan cannot be attributed to a “normal trend” or “Rajasthan is a see-saw State” kind of arguments.

First, let’s look at candidates. The BJP could not change the number of candidates as its central leadership would have wanted, owing to a battle between Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP president Amit Shah. Mr. Shah wanted to change at least 100 sitting MLAs; Ms. Raje allowed only 45 changes.

Next, governance. Ms. Raje’s government has been corrupt, non-performing and insensitive for the past five years. This government brought back memories of her previous tenure as Chief Minister (2003-2008). The mining scam, where over 600 mining leases were allotted without following due procedure, resulted in the Rajya Sabha being adjourned many times and brought shame to the State.

Employment figures

Further, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment figure in Rajasthan (13.7%) in October is more than twice the national figure (6.6%). Ms. Raje came to power promising 15 lakh jobs. She later changed “job” to “employment” and “employment” to “employment opportunities”. She proudly claimed that instead of 15 lakh jobs, her government had provided 44 lakh jobs. Her own Minister of Labour and Employment said in December last year that the the total number of jobs provided by her government stood at 2.17 lakh. A Comptroller and Auditor General report exposes her claims on employment. The Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Development Corporation, the premier agency for skill training, could only achieve 48.90% of its target between 2014 and 2017. Placement data stands at a meagre 35.58%.

An example of the gravity of unemployment in the State can be seen from the fact that for the 18 posts advertised for peons in 2017 by the Rajasthan Assembly, among 13,000 applicants, 129 were engineers, 23 were lawyers, one was a chartered accountant and 393 were postgraduates. Farmers, daily wage earners, small businesses and traders have borne the brunt of demonetisation and the complicated implementation of the goods and services tax. Under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the number of days of employment stands at 50 instead of 150.

Both Mr. Modi and Ms. Raje can see the clear prospect of a looming defeat. The renewed recourse to emotive issues is a clear testimony to an internal acknowledgement by the party that on jobs and other parameters of development, the BJP is staring at defeat.

Other failures

The list of Ms. Raje’s mistakes competes with Mr. Modi’s own long list. Ms. Raje’s decision to merge schools with a low student count with larger schools within the vicinity (of 3-4 km) has led to the closure of 17,000 schools and has impacted over 5 lakh children.

Mr. Modi has not yet appointed a Lokpal, and Ms. Raje recently extended the tenure of the Lokayukta to eight years from the earlier five, causing a severe dent to the integrity of the institution.

If Mr. Modi tries to honestly find out about the actual scam in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), he will see that in Rajasthan, two out of three farmers enrolled with the PMFBY have been left out. Of the 53,39,000 farmers of 41 tehsils in 13 districts declared drought-hit in the kharif season in 2017, and part of the rabi season in 2017-18, all of whom were covered under the PMFBY, only 19,76,000 farmers benefited from the scheme.

Pawan Khera is a national spokesperson of the Indian National Congress

NO | Sudhanshu Trivedi


History points to a promising and impressive victory for the BJP in the State


There is no question of the BJP losing in Rajasthan. The State government has taken numerous initiatives for the common man. Let me cite two examples. The first is the Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojana which ensures that the needy get a health cover of up to ₹3 lakh. About 22 lakh people have benefited from this scheme. The second is the work done in education. All 5,000 gram panchayats in the State now have access to schools and inter-government colleges, i.e. schools till Class 12. That’s why the pass percentage at the school level has increased substantially, and Rajasthan has jumped from the bottom of the list in education to an enviable position. Before this, students had to travel long distances to go to school and often dropped out of school as a result.

Candidate decisions

By focusing on education and health, the Vasundhara Raje government has reached out to people who really matter. Those who are trying to malign her by saying she is not accessible or who question her style of functioning should substantiate their claims. The Congress is not able to criticise her with concrete examples. When the main Opposition party has to change its candidate three times in a crucial constituency like Bikaner, what does that tell you? At one point in time, the Leader of the Opposition went to the extent of saying he would not contest the election if the party did not review its decision on one candidate.

The central leadership of Rajasthan was forced to leave through the back door because its own partypersons were disgruntled in Delhi with the candidates. So, let’s not talk about style of functioning. As far as the BJP is concerned, it has successfully rewritten history in several States.

If you go by all the prepoll surveys, with the exception of the Delhi Assembly, these surveys got their predictions wrong as far as the BJP tally was concerned. In U.P., for example, the surveys said the BJP would not get a majority. They had the same predictions for Tripura and Assam, but look at the results.

What has also changed in Rajasthan is the successful outreach programme of the State government. Perhaps this was missing the previous time. But this time, the message has reached the people.

Nationalist sentiment

Rajasthan is very crucial to the BJP’s scheme of things. The people of the State have closely identified with cultural pride and a strong nationalist sentiment, which is in sync with the BJP’s ideological position. When the Modi government at the Centre is marching ahead on the path of development with national pride and with a strong cultural foundation, how can Rajasthan be left out?

Those who are talking about the electoral history of Rajasthan should revisit facts. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat formed two successive governments in 1990 and 1993. In 2003, the first government of Vasundhara Raje was the first BJP government of Rajasthan to get a clear majority and, in 2013, the BJP got a three-fourths majority for the first time.

So, history points to a promising and impressive victory for the BJP in Rajasthan.

Sudhanshu Trivedi is a national spokesperson of the BJP

IT’S COMPLICATED | Yashwant Deshmukh


How the Congress and the BJP use their assets will determine who will win


Rajasthan is complicated because of the intriguing split-vote phenomenon which is bound to send analysts looking for all kinds of excuses if they intend to read too much into the Assembly election, hoping to get some traction for the upcoming Lok Sabha election. When was the last time you saw any State election with the poll slogan, “Modi tujhse bair nahin, par rani teri khair nahin”? The nearest would be the Delhi Assembly election when the Aam Aadmi Party had placed a banner on its official website stating, “Modi for PM, Arvind for CM”. That was also dropped after it was pointed out by the media. But you still find this slogan making its way into some newspapers. What does that tell us? It tells us that the Rajasthan voters are extremely upset with the sitting Chief Minister but they don’t want to conflate it with their sentiments on the Prime Minister. And that makes Rajasthan complicated.

The issue of State leadership

Rajasthan is complicated because there is no other State which exposes the fault lines on regional leadership the way Rajasthan does. While the voters in Rajasthan are eager to swing towards the young and energetic Sachin Pilot as a possible Congress Chief Minister, make no mistake, they are not swinging for the old guard, Ashok Gehlot. Yes, Mr. Gehlot is still popular among old Congress voters, but if that were enough, he would not have lost the election in the humiliating way that he did five years ago. The edge in any election is the swing vote, and all the votes are swinging towards Mr. Pilot courtesy the young voters. He is the prime asset for the Congress now, and Ms. Raje seems to be the prime liability for the BJP, for there is a lot of anger against her. This seems to be straightforward as far as State leadership is concerned.

Assets and liabilities

But what makes the Rajasthan election complicated is the fact that the national leadership equation is just the opposite of this. Among the voters in the State, Mr. Modi is the prime asset of the BJP, whereas Congress president Rahul Gandhi is the prime liability for the Congress. So, it is the asset/liability cross equation that makes Rajasthan an intriguing case study.

For the Congress, it is really easy to win Rajasthan provided it understands its liability clearly and uses its asset prudently. The party has to focus only on local issues and local governance. The moment it gives in to the urge of project its central leadership, it will end up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

For the BJP, it is the opposite. It knows its liability and will play its trump card: arranging many rallies by Mr. Modi. The more the Congress deviates from the Raje versus Pilot contest to the Modi versus Gandhi contest, the more complicated it will get. In doing so, it will walk directly into the Modi trap.

Focus on local issues

Will the Congress do it? Yes and no. While its State leadership, be it Mr. Pilot or Mr. Gehlot, is prudent enough to focus on local issues alone (just check how many statements have been made on Rafale, for example), the same can’t be said about its central leadership. Mr. Gandhi’s campaign is essentially focused on Mr. Modi, and while this is being seen as “aggressive” by his cheerleaders, the truth is uncomfortable. You must be wondering, why blame Mr. Gandhi when Mr. Modi’s campaign is about 10 Janpath rather than the performance of Ms. Raje or even his own Central government?

That is precisely my point. That kind of campaign is home turf for Mr. Modi. You go that way, and it will be his highway.

Yashwant Deshmukh is the founder director of CVoter International

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 4:34:18 AM |

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