By Sushil Kutty
Results of 199 Rajasthan Assembly seats where polling took place on Saturday will decide which party rules the state for the next five years. Since 1998 no party has been repeated twice in succession in Rajasthan. By that token, the Congress would be taking a break from December 3. But Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is behaving like he’s not going anywhere even if it’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been campaigning against Gehlot for the last several weeks.
Chances are the 199 contests were close encounters and the outcomes will be too close to call till the last of the votes haven’t been counted. Counting of votes will be on December 3. The campaigning was bitter with a lot of to-and-fro name-calling. It was like the sands of time had come to a boil even as the desert air of Rajasthan cooled for the approaching winter.
On December 3, if the BJP is defeated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take it as an omen and set himself free. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been telling folks that he’s a Rajasthani; therefore, fellow Rajasthanis should ensure his victory just like the Gujarati gave fellow Gujarati Narendrabhai Modi a huge majority in the Gujarat Assembly elections in 2022.
Other dispatches on the Rajasthan election scene have been talking of Gehlot taking on the rest of the field, including fellow Congress travellers, all alone and emerging triumphant one-on-one with the Prime Minister. Ashok Gehlot has a dedicated media following and that has ensured his message got across to the right people at the right time.
The undercurrents of the Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot feud were never too far below the surface. Gehlot behaved like he was already the anointed Chief Minister for yet another term while rival Sachin Pilot was expending all his breath in giving credit for the upcoming December 3 “Congress victory” in Rajasthan to the Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi, hoping the Chief Minister’s chair will be his for the asking.
The story so far is that things in Rajasthan wouldn’t be very different from what they have been for the previous five years. The Gehlot-Pilot feud will run unabated and if the grapevine isn’t wrong, Sachin Pilot will be one more time kept at bay to make way for the next ‘Gehlot Sarkar’. If the Congress/INDI-Alliance wants a 2024 victory, it better keep magician Ashok Gehlot in good humour.
The Gujjars of eastern Rajasthan might want Sachin Pilot but too many stories have been written about Ashok Gehlot’s popularity and him fighting a lone hand against none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also, Gehlot has promised that he’d be breaking the jinx of no party ruling Rajasthan twice in a row and if anybody can do it, it’s Ashok Gehlot, who believes he has been dealt a special hand to rule Rajasthan for as long as he wants.
So, the bottom-line: The nearly three-decade old trend of voting out governments could lie in shambles and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will promise the electorate yet again the moon with his government’s beneficiary schemes. The BJP has been trying hard to upend Gehlot with Hindutva, the mounting cases of sexual assaults including rape, and the exam papers’ leaks, but to no avail, so far.
The Congress’ promises of cooking gas for Rs 500, free health insurance of up to Rs 25 lakh, smartphones to women, free rations, even free tea and sugar, must have fetched it votes, like freebies got the Congress victory in Karnataka. A total of “seven guarantees” is the deal between the voter and the Congress party in Rajasthan.
Also, the Congress will be wallowing in Muslim votes, like it did in Karnataka, and that in winning numbers. But the reverse engineering of Hindu/Hindutva votes in favour of the BJP will also reflect in the December 3 counting of votes. Spoken in one sentence, the election campaigning in Rajasthan has been cutthroat with Prime Minister Narendra Modi repeatedly mentioning the case of tailor Kanhaiyalal, whose throat was cut by a couple of cutthroats.
The only thing standing between victory and BJP is Ashok Gehlot who is popular and “thorough gentleman” though some of the words Gehlot has used for Sachin Pilot wouldn’t be considered “gentlemanly” at all. But then, the Rajasthani tongue is like that, not for the chocolaty sort. The general feeling is “people are not upset” with Ashok Gehlot. And one slogan often heard was “Gehlot you are good, but not your legislators”. December 3 will set the record, in more ways than one, straight. (IPA Service)