March 02, 2014

RAJASTHAN & LOK SABHA 2014


CAN THE BJP STORM THE DESERT STATE


The 2013 state elections, especially those held in the months of November and December have been a big morale booster for the BJP. Except for Delhi, it ended up forming the government in other three states, a huge achievement since it was facing anti-incumbency in at least two of these. The win in Madhya Pradesh was expected and the party was always believed to be holding an edge over its rivals in Chhattisgarh. However, it has been the victory in Rajasthan or the extent of the victory that surprised me the most. The saffron outfit under its Chief Ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje Scindia won over 80 percent of the seats even as the Congress limped to a humiliating tally of 21, a decline of about eighty seats from the last polls in 2008. Remember in 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Rajasthan was swept by the Congress as it took home 20 of the 25 seats from the state. With the saffron party's figures plummeting to a lowly 4, the top brass asked Raje to take moral responsibility and kept out of the state politics. However, five years down the line she was brought back into the forefront and made the chief of BJP's electoral campaign. After successfully leading her party and scoring an amazing win over her arch rival Ashok Gehlot, the former royal is the new queen of the desert state.

ISSUES

(1) The Ripple effect of the 2013 elections: With the gap between the state elections and the 2014 General Elections being just a few months, the results of the local polls are expected to have a big effect on how the electorate votes while choosing the next Central government. The extent of BJP's victory in 2013 has been enormous; the very fact that it crossed the 150 mark quite comfortably indicates a massive wave in its favor. At a time when the masses want development, the previous Gehlot regime did not take any worthwhile measure in this direction during its tenure. Not so surprisingly, it was booted out. Meanwhile, Raje's Suraj Sankhalp Yatra helped her connect with the people on the ground. The saffron outfit wants to ride on the wave and wrest Rajasthan back from the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

(2) The UPA II government's performance: The general perception is that the UPA II government in New Delhi has failed to deliver and the desert state is no exception. A plethora of corruption allegations including 2G, Commonwealth and Coalgate have tarnished the image of the incumbent regime at a time when the country was awakened by developments triggered after the fast by anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare in August 2011. The policy paralysis and economic slowdown has led to a general sense of unhappiness with the Singh government. One of the biggest failures of the Congress has been its inability to control inflation and the price rise has only made the matters worse.

(3) Modi at Centre and Raje in Jaipur: During the Madhya Pradesh state elections it was being speculated that there were some differences between Narendra Modi and Shivraj Singh Chauhan as both were once considered for the post of BJP's PM nominee for 2014. However, no such issues exist between the Gujarat strongman and Raje. In fact, during the polls she was more than happy to play second fiddle to him in election rallies they attended together. The combined popularity of both the leaders is expected to swing the balance heavily in BJP's favor. After Gujarat, Rajasthan is one state where Modi has a large fan base. On the other hand, after coming to power, Raje has looked drastically different from here earlier stint when she was labelled indifferent and haughty.

CONTENDERS

(1) BJP: The saffron outfit is in the driver's seat. After a spectacular performance in the state polls, the party is all set to score big in the General Elections too. The Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje Scindia however, is taking no chances. In spite of romping home to power, she is putting in all the efforts to maximize her party's poll prospects. She is trying to connect to the ordinary people by travelling in trains, a clear attempt at image makeover. The former royal who was known to lead a lavish life during her earlier tenure has to play a major role in case the BJP has to form the next government at the Centre.

(2) Congress: The INC in Rajasthan, as in many states in the Hindi heartland, is in a soup. After the drubbing it got in last state polls, the party seems to be headed for a rout in upcoming Lok Sabha elections from here. The priority of the Congress will be to cut down its loses as far as possible. Choosing the right candidates could well make the difference. At the same time, you can even expect the grand old party to refuse tickets to some of its sitting MPs and field new faces.

The Aam Admi Party (AAP) will make its electoral debut in the state in the upcoming General Election. The National People's Party (NPP) which fielded several dissidents from the national parties and won four seats in the assembly does have an outside chance to cause upsets though it may not win any seats. The Bahujan Smamajwadi Party and the National Unionist Zamindar Party (NUZP) have just pockets of influence but are most likely to finish with no seats. Amongst the parties that constitute the Third Front, the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (United) are marginal players.

PAST PERFORMANCE

As it is evident from the below chart, Rajasthan is a swing state i.e. either of the two national parties sweeps the state, winning an overwhelming majority of the seats from the state. Between 1999 and 2007, the saffron outfit was the dominant player here. It did exceedingly well in 1999 General Elections and dislodged the Congress government from power in 2003. The very next year when the NDA faced a shock defeat, the desert state still elected 21 BJP representatives to the Parliament. Things started changing in 2008 when Gehlot extracted revenge from Scindia as the INC came to power in Jaipur. In the following year, the Congress won 20 of the 25 seats during the General Elections as it defied anti-incumbency to script a famous win. Now with the BJP winning with a thumping majority in the recently concluded assembly polls, people here are expecting the party to perform strongly in 2014 too.

Political Party
2013 SE
2009 GE
2008 SE
2004 GE
2003 SE
1999 GE
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
162
4
78
21
120
16
Congress
21
20
96
4
56
9
Others
17
1
26
-
24
-

(1) SE: State Elections (The Rajasthan state assembly has 200 seats.)
(2) GE: General Elections (Rajasthan sends 25 MPs to the Lower House of the Parliament.)


MY PREDICTIONS

In my opinion, the saffron brigade is all set to finish with a superb tally of around 20 seats. The Congress is heading to a massive defeat in the state and it will be an achievement if they can even cross five seats. The Aam Admi Party (AAP) may open its account in the state.

Political Party
Expected Seats
1
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
16-22
2
Congress
4-8
3
Aam Admi Party (AAP)
0-1

WATCH OUT

(1) The Battle for Jhunjhunu: The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has named former Lt General of Army Raj Kadyan as its candidate from Jhunjhunu constituency in North Western Rajasthan. After former Army Chief General V K Singh joined the BJP this week, there are speculations that he may be made to contest against Kadyan from here. Considering that Kadyan and Singh have had several bitter war of words in the past, the contest could gather momentum in the next few weeks. Besides, both ex-servicemen belong to the two dominant yet rival castes from the Shekawati region of the state - Singh is a Thakur whereas Kadyan belongs to the Jat community.

(2) Future of Ashok Gehlot: What will be the political future of former CM Ashok Gehlot? Born in 1951, he is still young by political standards. However, after the kind of beating that Congress party got, it remains to be seen if the Gandhis trust him with some important responsibility in the future. There was some buzz in political circle that Rahul Gandhi wanted to chose a new face to led the party prior to the 2013 polls. However, Gehlot still managed to convince the high command to retain him. After a utterly humiliating defeat, can he still make a comeback. well, that remains to be seen.

For more posts in this series:
(1) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Tamil Nadu & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)