While in Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh the BJP and the Congress are in a close fight with the former having an edge, in Telangana it is K Chandrashekhar Reddy who holds the trumps, it is Rajasthan where the Congress has been consistently ahead and is likely to triumph barring some last-minute developments in the ensuing Assembly polls.
There is of course the legacy factor in so far as no party has lasted more than a term in the last quarter century with the electorate each
time voting the incumbent government out. Public expectations run high and every government falls short of them with a plethora of unfulfilled promises.
Ironically, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi still enjoys high acceptability, there is strong anti-incumbency against the Vasundhara Raje government in the state. There is a wave of anger against the Raje government among the lower castes, and the Muslims but reports say the BJP is also losing ground in the urban pockets which were its traditional strongholds earlier.
The picture could have changed somewhat with Vijayaraje being replaced by a more humble and down-to-earth person, more responsive to people’s sentiments, but it may already be too late for that. Besides, there is the familiar problem of lack of alternative to the present incumbent, with no leader who can match up to Congress’ Ashok Gehlot who is a former chief minister or even to the youthful Sachin Pilot who has fired the imagination of many with his work at the grassroots and his transparency.
The only hope for the BJP is if Gehlot, who is Sonia Gandhi’s choice and Sachin Pilot who is Rahul Gandhi’s chosen one pick up a quarrel in the open. But that is not happening and while there is peace on the surface, there is little to suggest that the acrimony has reached levels where there may be strong under-cutting.
The voteshare gap between the Congress and the BJP may not be wide—typically three to five per cent--- but there are no signs that it is being bridged.
A recent Times Now survey identified unemployment, sanitation, agrarian problems, drinking water and price rise as the top concerns for Rajasthan voters. On these it is the incumbent government that inevitably has to pay the price.
Major sections of voters have got alienated by the BJP government, the principal among them being the Rajputs who felt deeply aggrieved by the treatment meted out to former senior minister in the erstwhile Vajyapee government Jaswant Singh. When the veteran’s son Manvendra Singh walked out of the BJP and joined the Congress, many deemed that to be the last straw on the camel’s back at least so far as the Rajputs were concerned. The Padmavati film controversy also soured the pitch for the BJP among Rajputs.
The arrogance of Vasundhara Raje has distanced her from her cadres who are lacking in enthusiasm and drive for the victory of their party in the upcoming polls.
Unlike the Lok Sabha elections in which Prime Minister Modi lends a huge helping hand with his whirlwind campaigning, in the Assembly polls he leaves it to state leaders by and large. Without Modi’s prop, a strong revival for the party seems a remote possibility.
BJP president Amit Shah has visited Rajasthan no less than 15 times between June and October to interact with cadres but a perceptible change is yet to come about in attitudes. Vasundhara Raje continues to believe that hers is the last word on Rajasthan politics.
The BJP is hoping to cash in on the intense caste rivalry between the Gujjars represented by Pilot and the Meenas but only the results will show if that has worked to an extent.
All in all, the odds are stacked against the BJP in favour of the Congress but there can be no guarantee that things would not change at the last minute. As it stands, however, the Congress seems to be in the driver’s seat though it has done little to justify that trust.