Rajasthan polls, that has been rescheduled for November 25 from November 23 by the Election Commission of India on account of very large number of weddings in the state, has offered the twin challenges of “infighting and anti-incumbency” for both the Congress and the BJP.
The way the BJP’s ticket aspirants – at least five who were denied tickets – or their supporters protested the day after announcement of the first list of 41 candidates on October 9is a clear indication of severe level of infighting within the state BJP. In one case, even supporters of a disgruntled BJP leaders who was denied ticket burned the party flags.
Disappointment after denial of tickets is a common phenomena in every party, but what is happening in the BJP is something more serious for the BJP in general and PM Narendra Modi in particular since they will be seeking third term in the forthcoming Lok Sabah election 2024. More so because BJP had won all the 25 seats from the state.
The Central BJP leadership had tried to contain infighting in the state BJP through several means including not projecting a CM face. In its place, the ideal of collective leadership was floated, and PM Narendra Modi has become the face or mascot under which BJP will be contesting the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha election having 200 seats. Former CM Vasundhara Raje’s followers have alleged that she has been sidelined along with her loyalists. Though Vasundhara Raje was there in the meeting that decided the first list of candidates, the allegations and the protests are yet to cease.
On such an unrest in the BJP over ticket distribution, Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal has said, “A team has been formed for damage control. The team is being headed by MoS Kailash Choudhary. I too have spoken with 8-10 people. We hold reviews every day. We will do whatever damage control is required.”
PM Narendra Modi is the mascot of the BJP and there is a certain level of anti-incumbency against his rule. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the migrant workers of the state had to suffer a lot and many of them simply perished while returning home on foot, without food and water, along with all family members including women and children. Unprecedented level of unemployment and the cost-of-living crisis thereafter have made people miserable. PM Modi has been aggressively campaigning in the state and launching several projects and schemes in the state now only when the election was to be announced. BJP in finding very hard to win over the suffering people, at a time when promises given are not believed. BJP has to overcome such anti-incumbency.
BJP has to face the united opposition of the Congress, especially after a truce achieved between CM Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. Moreover, the BJP leadership will have a difficult task to make people believe on their allegations that Congress government in the stated did not work for them, since people have been getting several benefits on account of several pro-people schemes of Ashok Gehlot government, including implementation of the right to free treatment.
BJP’s challenges have been increased on account of the promise of Caste Census by the Congress if it returns to power. To counter this BJP has planned to give large number of tickets to OBC. However, people may chose promise of reservation by Congress over OBC identity politics of BJP.
Popularity of CM Ashok Gehlot seems to be more effective than the anti-incumbency against his government. Even then, there are certain issues, such as crime and communal situation in the state, which may pose real challenge to the Congress. There is strong organizational presence of Congress in the state that may match the organizational presence of RSS-BJP up to booth level. But the real challenge would be minimizing division of anti-BJP votes, as several opposition parties such as AAP, SP, RLD and BSP will be contesting the election.
Infighting in the Congress has been subdued for some weeks, but it may erupt again after ticket distribution. Congress will need to take care of that at the time of ticket distribution to avoid protests such as we see now within BJP.
Ruling Congress in the state is likely to face increased communal tensions and polarization of electorate on religious Hindu-Muslim line on account of political propaganda of the BJP. The Congress will need to be extra careful to avoid any polarization of the electorate on communal lines.
BJP has been trying to exploit infighting in the Congress. They are telling people that Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot fought for five years for their dominance in the state but forgot governance. On the other hand BJP is claiming that there is no infighting in the Party and both the factions – of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Vasundhara Raje – are collectively working for the party and deciding tickets. Congress needs to counter this narrative and show that the party is united house, while BJP is divided.
Congress will have a tough time defending itself on high-pitch propaganda and allegations of corruption, crime, Muslim appeasement, and development issues raised by the PM Narendra Modi and RSS-BJP clan, even though the Ashok Gehlot government has done well in terms of social development. (IPA Service)