Will Modi Factor Manage to Rob Congress of its 2018 Assembly Poll Advantage in Rajasthan?
Trends over the years suggest that electoral fortunes in Rajasthan turn out to be lopsided. If one party gets majority in state or general elections, the results for the next polls gets reversed.
File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
New Delhi: As the Lok Sabha elections enter their fourth phase on Monday, a face-to-face battle between the Congress and the BJP is emerging out of Rajasthan, where the parties continue to try their luck at the hustings in the remaining 13 constituencies of the state.
The ruling BJP’s battle for prestige of retaining all these 13 seats it swept over the last time, will be met with the force of a resurgent Congress, which is buoyed by its victory in the December 2018 assembly elections.
The 13 Lok Sabha constituencies that go to polls today include Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Pali, Jodhpur, Barmer, Jalore, Udaipur, Banswara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Kota and Jhalawar-Baran. 115 candidates are in the fray from various political parties.
Trends over the years suggest that electoral fortunes in Rajasthan turn out to be lopsided, that is, if one party gets majority in a state or general elections, the results for the next election gets reversed.
For example, in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP had won the largest number of seats (21), but could only win four in the next general elections in 2009 as against the grand old party, which registered a victory by winning 20 seats.
These fortunes were turned once again in 2014, when the saffron party came back with full force and swept all 25 seats with an impressive 55.6 per cent vote share in a drubbing to the Congress which, despite getting 30.7 per cent vote share, failed to open its account.
A look at the results of the last six assembly elections since 1993 held in the desert state bear a similar pattern.
An analysis of the 104 assembly segments under the 13 constituencies in fray shows that a neck-to-neck competition between the Congress and BJP is to be expected in the state.
In December 2018, at least three parliamentary constituencies – Tonk-Sawar Madhopur, Jodhpur and Barmer – were in full favour of the Congress. BJP, too, fared well in three constituencies of Jalore, Udaipur and Jhalawar-Baran. The average vote share of Congress was 46.26 per cent, while BJP’s average vote share on 49 seats was 48.40 per cent. It is important to note that BJP’s defeat in the desert state in the recent assembly polls was a result of the growing resentment and the wave of anti-incumbency against former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, and not against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Like every other region, in Rajasthan too, the caste matrix and social demographics play a crucial rule in swaying votes. The Gujjar, Rajput and Meena are the major castes which impact elections here. Areas with considerable Jat population includes, Jalore and Jaiselmer, whereas the Gujjars are primarily concentrated in Sawai-Madhopur. The Rajputs wield influence in the Mewar region that covers Udaipur, Rajsamand, Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, and Banswara constituencies. While Meena, which constitute around 14 per cent of Rajasthan’s population, are considered as most influential and have been traditional supporters of the Congress. Two constituencies, namely Udaipur and Banswara, are reserved for the Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates who have a considerable presence in Udaipur (60 per cent), Banswara (76 per cent) and Chittorgarh (24 per cent). The rural population in Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Pali, Barmer, Jalore, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand Jhalawar-Baran, Udaipur and Banswara varies from 80 per cent to 93 per cent. The political playfield in Rajasthan has a new entrant this time, the Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), which has emerged as an alternative for Tribals in the southern region of the state that is originally considered a BJP stronghold. The constantly growing influence of the BTP in the tribal-dominated Rajasthan districts of Banswara, Dungarpur and Udaipur ever since the party pulled off a shocker in the assembly elections in December last year by winning two constituencies — Sagwara and Chorasi, has made the party a force to reckon with in this election. The BTP is contesting from four Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan — Banswara, Udaipur, Jodhpur and Chittorgarh — and is expected to give tough competition to the Congress and BJP. Despite constituting 9 per cent of the population in Rajasthan, the Muslim’s representation in politics here is dismal. Neither Congress nor the BJP has fielded any Muslim candidate from the 13 constituencies. This is even when the average population of Muslims in Ajmer, Tonk and Barmer is around 10 per cent. However, Muslims here are traditionally Congress voters.
Among popular faces in the fray is former princess of Jaipur Diya Kumari, who is contesting for the BJP from Rajsamand. She is the daughter of Sawai Bhawani Singh, the last Maharaja of Jaipur. The Congress has fielded Devkinandan Gurjar against Kumari.
Jodhpur’s incumbent MP Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, also minister of state (MoS) for agriculture and farmers welfare, is hoping to retain his constituency on a BJP ticket. But he is pitted against Vaibhav Gehlot, son of state chief minister Ashok Gehlot, which has made the competition tough.
The BJP’s sitting MLA from Baytoo assembly constituency, Kailash Choudhary, is contesting from Barmer Lok Sabha seat. On his rival side from Congress, MLA from Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency Col. Manvendra Singh is in fight. Over differences with the then chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Singh left the BJP in September 2018 ahead of assembly elections and joined the Congress.
In Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria had defeated Congress’s candidate and former Cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Jaunapuria is contesting again from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur on BJP ticket. Jaunapuria got 548,179 votes (52.6 per cent vote share), while Azharuddin got 412,868 votes (39.6 per cent vote share) in 2014. This time, Congress leader Namo Narain Meena is contesting against Jaunapuria.
From Banswara (ST), the BJP has fielded Kanak Mal Katara who is former member of Rajya Sabha and former cabinet minister in Government of Rajasthan. His fight is with Congress's Tarachand Bhagora, a former Lok Sabha member.
In Jhalawar-Baran constituency, Rana Dushyant Singh, incumbent MP is contesting again from BJP against Congress’s Promod Sharma. Singh is the son of last Maharaja of Dholpur, Maharaj Rana Hemant Singh.
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