Congress likely to improve tallyApr 30th, 2009 | By Elections2009 | Category: Lead
Sunny Sebastian, Jaipur
But high-profile dissidents and the Bahujan Samaj Party could cut into the party’s vote share
Going by the results of the December 2008 election, which brought the Congress back to power after a gap of five years in Rajasthan, the party should get around 12 Lok Sabha seats — which is roughly equivalent to the 96 seats it won in a 200-member strong State Assembly. Yet, going by past experience, Assembly election results in Rajasthan are only an indication of which way the wind is blowing. The Lok Sabha results often vary with State election trends, even if the y do not oppose them.
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Short of an absolute majority in the Assembly, the Congress roped in six MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party to achieve this. But the party is confident that it will do better than 2004 and that the BJP is bound to lose some of the 21 seats it holds currently.
However, the presence of senior Congressman Buta Singh as an Independent in his former constituency, Jalore, and the defiant stand of the Meena satrap, Kirorilal Meena, who is staying put as an Independent in Dausa (ST) are dampeners. Other factors that could cut into the party’s votes are the presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party candidates in all the seats, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate, who is in the reckoning in Sikar, and the entry of some Independents in the race.
The old rivals, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, lead their respective forces but the issues are a little broader this time since it is a Lok Sabha election. The Congress is highlighting the employment guarantee scheme and the loan waiver for farmers and the BJP is stressing the economy and need for a “strong” government.
The BJP’s logic for going to the polls with the same team — Ms. Raje and State President Omprakash Mathur — could be dictated by the fact that the party, after all, managed to win 78 seats. Moreover, with all its old guard in retirement — former Vice- President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat included — the Raje-Mathur combination was possibly the best available.
The BJP is fighting all 25 seats on its own and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partner, the Janata Dal (United), which was denied a seat, is trying to help by fielding candidates that could cut into the Congress vote.
The BJP has re-nominated only 12 of its 21 sitting MPs. Prominent among those who failed to make it include senior leader Kailash Meghwal, film actor Dharmendra, former State chief Raghuveer Kaushal and Bangaru Laxman’s wife, Susheela Laxman. Incidentally, some of those who have been dropped are sworn enemies of Ms. Raje.
The BJP candidates include Ms. Raje’s son, Dushyant Singh in Jhalawar and senior leader Jaswant Singh’s son, Manavendra Singh in Barmer.
The party has fielded three sitting MLAs, including Ms. Raje’s bete noire Ghanshyam Tiwari (Jaipur). The BJP’s surprise choice this time includes Kirori Singh Bainsla, the man behind the violent Gujjar agitation.
The Congress, after renominating three of its four sitting MPs (Karan Singh Yadav in Alwar dropped) has given tickets to three defeated candidates of 2004 elections and three candidates who lost the recent Assembly polls, including State president C.P. Joshi (Bhilwara).
Though the Congress refused tickets to “outsiders” such as Buta Singh and Sunil Jakhar (Sikar), it accommodated Chandresh Kumari, the sister of the former Jodhpur ruler, Gaj Singh in Jodhpur. Unlike in the past, the Congress has given more tickets to the former royals of Rajasthan: its tally stands at three against two of the BJP.
Compared to the Congress, the BJP can claim a broader caste representation and thereby better social engineering in its candidate selection. The Congress has seemingly concentrated on major groups such as SC and ST (8 nominations, one more than the total number of reserved seats), and Jats (seven, including a Kalbi), followed by Rajputs (four) and Brahmins (three). The BJP, while not nominating any Muslim, selected five Rajputs, four Jats (including a Kalbi), two each from Brahmins and Vaishyas (including a Jain) and one nominee each from the Yadav, Gujjar, Vishnoi, Sindhi and Rawat communities.
Caste factors will once again be major determinants. With the warring Gujjar and Meena voters now divided in their loyalties, the situation is hazy in the east Rajasthan districts of Dausa (ST), Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Bharatpur and Karauli-Dholpur. The BJP, which has fielded Kirori Singh Bainsla from Tonk Sawai Madhopur, may secure the Gujjar vote in that constituency — where he is pitted against the Meena candidate, Union Minister Namonarain Meena — but not elsewhere in the State.
The Congress advantage is a clean Chief Minister who has an image of a well meaning person. But four months is too short a period for people to assess a government even if the steps taken by it have met with considerable goodwill, especially from the poorer sections and women. For the BJP, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is both an advantage and a disadvantage. While the corruption allegations against her are pending inquiry, no other party leader can match her charisma and her capacity to lead in the State.