Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, IndiaDec 03, 2018, 09.59 AM
With the people of Rajasthan voting for a new Assembly four days from now, the electoral script has been virtually finalised, which can change only if there are last minute dramatic twists. While such a possibility remains in the realm of the unknown, what is known are the developments over the past few weeks in the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party camps. They can provide an indication, even if not decisively, of the state’s political colour over the next five years.
First, Congress. The party is upbeat, not so much because the people have suddenly realised the merits of its governance but because they are angry with the Vasundhara Raje regime for a variety of reasons — though not all of them may be valid. If one studies the Congress’s poll drive, one would discover that it has not identified in concrete terms ‘misgovernance’ of the incumbent BJP regime. Instead, it has tapped on the public perception of dissatisfaction. The Congress has not vigorously attacked the various developmental schemes of either the state or the Modi government, only half-heartedly pointing to lacunae. Perhaps this is because the benefits are all too obvious to ignore. The party’s manifesto too is not marked by any exceptional promises.
The Congress is depending on various other factors, besides anti-incumbency. It believes that the arrival into its camp of Manvendra Singh will dent the BJP’s Rajput vote-bank; it calculates that the departure from the BJP of senior leaders such as Ghanshyam Tewari will adversely impact that party; it thinks that individual players such as Hanuman Beniwal will eat into the BJP’s votes since he is a BJP rebel. On a more positive side, however, it holds that the presence of its two strongest state leaders — Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot — will swing the votes in its favour.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has vigorously campaigned in the State. He has a reputation — to not uphold but establish. Perhaps because he believes that Rajasthan offers him the best chance, compared to Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, to do so, that he has gone all out in this state. Success will power him as a leader of consequence and maybe even ignite his dream of leading a non-BJP coalition in time for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The opposite outcome will not keep him where he is — which is bad enough — but slide him down further. It can be safely predicted, though, that if the Congress still loses a battle it believes is in its bag, then the blame will be shared by the State’s leaders and Rahul Gandhi will be insulated from taking accountability.
The BJP is from all accounts, locked in a grim contest. Poll surveys and perceptions — or at least what has been publicly stated — have not been a cause of cheer for the party. Even its sympathisers believe that it would be a miracle if the BJP retains the State. Of course, there could be undercurrents of support for the party which has not been mapped. But would that be sufficient to turn the tables on the Congress?
Meanwhile, the party is furiously engaged in what it does best: Booth management at the micro level. Party president Amit Shah has stationed himself in Rajasthan and is directing the campaign by ironing out the weaknesses and promoting the strengths. There is no doubt that many behind-the-scenes calculations are being done in the run-up to the poll and the result thereof. For the moment the BJP’s central leadership has completely backed Vasundhara Raje’s candidature. This was to be expected because changing the captain (even if that captain is problematic) in the midst of a fight is not the most sensible thing to do. Doing so would also have invited serious factionalism at a time when the party needed to fight the ‘enemy’ as one. Besides, the BJP does not have a State leader who can match Vasundhara Raje’s stature.
Realising the delicacy of the situation, the RSS has pumped in its manpower resources to ensure a BJP victory. This is significant for two reasons. The first is that the RSS has considerable hold among the electorate and there is thus the possibility of swinging indecisive votes in the BJP’s favour. The RSS has units that have been for long working among slum-dwellers, traders and the poorer sections of society, and hopes to cash in on that support base. The second issue of significance is that the RSS has shed, for the moment, its wariness towards Vasundhara Raje, and has agreed to back her in the BJP’s larger interests.
Will that be a game-turner for the BJP, or will it prove inadequate to match a resurgent Congress in the state, remains to be seen.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)