After being completely wiped out by BJP in last general polls, Congress has tried to get its act together in Rajasthan. Recent victory of Congress, led by Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot, in assembly polls was one indication of that. However assembly polls, where an anti-incumbency sentiment could be heard in refrains like ‘Vasundhara [Raje] teri khair nahi, Modi tujhse bair nahi’, and Lok Sabha polls where Narendra Modi is still the most popular name, could play out very differently.
BJP has been hoping that the spirit of nationalism rides high in the Pakistan bordering state. Pulwama strikes and Balakot strikes have come as a shot in the arm for the state BJP unit. In a Modi rally in Churu names and faces of CRPF soldiers who lost their lives in the Pulwama terror attack were displayed in the backdrop. In Barmer, IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was downed and captured in Pakistani territory, was seen on a BJP hoarding.
However Congress, which has often been marred with factionalism, has tried to unite and break the Presidential style contest into 25 smaller contests. How successful it was, we will soon find out. Meanwhile let’s look at 10 important facts about this state -
-Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot made his electoral debut this election from his father’s stronghold, Jodhpur. He, however, faced a tough contest from BJP’s Gajendra Shekhawat.
-The other such seat is Jhalawar-Baran in Hadauti region, where Vasundhara Raje has spent half of her total campaigning, in order to see her son through.
-Another interesting battle was fought in Nagaur, where Congress’ Jyoti Mirdha challenged for her family’s legacy against BJP-backed aggressive Jat leader Hanuman Beniwal. BJP has, by allying with Beniwal, risked counter-mobilisation of several other communities against Jats.
-A similar played out for the BJP in Ajmer where BJP has put up a Jat candidate at the risk of polarising members of the other dominant communities - Gujjars, Vaishyas, Brahmins and most prominently the Rajputs - against itself. But BJP’s Bhagirath Chaudhary is banking on ‘Namo Again’ to see him through.
-Congress needs to open an account from Mewar, a politically significant region about which it is often said ‘whoever wins Mewar, wins Rajasthan’. Mewar has become a BJP fortress now. Gains for Congress in Mewar would mean a better showing for the party in the rest of the state.
-Rajasthan’s southernmost Lok Sabha constituency, Banswara-Dungarpur, a seat reserved for Scheduled Tribes, which comprises 73% of the electorate, saw a strong contest from Chhotubhai Vasava’s Bhartiya Tribal Party.
-Congress tried to influence the tribal vote share in the state by fielding several Meena candidates from general seats also.
-An interesting contest unfolded in Jaipur Rural where two Olympians - BJP’s Rajyavardhan Rathore and Congress’ Krishna Poonia - were up against each other.
-To battle BJP’s themes of Modi and nationalism Congress opened its state coffers just in time. First it increased the compensation to the families of the deceased CRPF personnel from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. It also issued letters promising loan waivers to small farmers. And furthermore promised more cash transfers through its Nyay scheme.
-BJP will need to keep farm distress and its relatively weak performance in rural areas in check, also if SCs and STs, don’t fall away from BJP, Congress could again look at a wipe out in Rajasthan.