Friday, May 24, 2024

Rajasthan elections: Congress hopes to overturn BJP sweep

As voting in Rajasthan state wrapped up on Friday, with a low turnout at around 56 per cent, political parties are unable to predict the trend in the state. Though the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies have swept all 25 seats in the last two Lok Sabha elections and also won the assembly elections last year, the opposition camp claims it will snatch some seats.

Congress party, which lost the majority in the state assembly last year, fielded 22 candidates while its allies in the INDIA bloc contested from three seats. For BJP, setbacks due to anger over Agneepath and an internal caste rift over candidature, are the stalks at play.

The lack of a Modi wave and voting fatigue are considered the causes for the low voter turnout.

Maktoob spoke to the residents, local journalists, political commentators and social workers active in different Lok Sabhas to understand the possible outcome of polls in the state.

Churu: Congress hopeful as Rajputs are angry with BJP

Raheem Khan, a local journalist from Rajasthan extensively covering politics and other issues told Maktoob, “The competition for Churu seat is based on caste. History states that a jat has often won from the seat irrespective of the party. From 1977 to 2014, in the 11 elections, the BJP won 5 times while the Congress only managed to win 3 times. In the last four elections, starting from 1999, the BJP has consistently recorded victories here.”

This time Congress has fielded Rahul Kaswan, a jat politician who defected from BJP. He had won the seat for BJP in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. BJP gave the ticket to Paralympics player Devendra Jhajharia.

Khan said, “BJP candidate’s supporter, ex-MLA Rajendra Rathore is a Rajput and he has been campaigning for Jhajharia, and Kaswan is a Jat. Now people vote through the lens of caste rather than a party.”

Kaswan accused Rathore of influencing the decision of the BJP ticket to Jhajaria. Taking advantage of Kaswan’s resignation from the BJP, Congress fielded Kaswan to contest from Churu as he has more experience on the ground and had won two terms consistently. 

But, “Narendra Modi himself campaigned for the BJP candidate and that might turn or influence the polls result”, said Khan.

Nagaur: Close call

INIDA has fielded Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) supremo Hanuman Beniwal in the Jat stronghold of Nagaur. Beniwal is pitted against Bharatiya Janata Party’s Jyoti Mirdha, whom he had defeated in 2019 when she fought as a Congress candidate.

In this Lok Sabha Polls Congress MLA, Haredndra Mirdha was seen campaigning for Beniwal, a former Mirdha family supporter, now with Rashtriya Loktantrik Party in alliance with Congress. 

Khan said, “It looks like a mutual shuffle and balance, just difficult to say who will make it but Beniwal’s campaign was more focused on the youth which has major issues so, he might get the seat.”

Jhunjunu: Pilot’s involvement indicates Congress

Jhunjhunu’s political landscape has a huge imprint of BJP’s Shishram Ola, a former Union minister but it shifted after his passing in December 2013. Despite BJP clinching the Lok Sabha seat afterwards, subsequent elections saw challenges, prompting candidate changes each time.

In this election, the competition intensified with Congress nominating Shishram Ols’s son Brijendra Singh Ola, the current Jhunjhunu MLA. BJP replaced incumbent MP Narendra Kumar with former legislator Shubhkaran Choudhary, who faced criticism for a contentious remark regarding the Rajputs, a significant support base for BJP.

“It is important to note the Pilot family’s support to Ola can get INDIA Bloc another seat from the state”, Khan remarked.

Amra Ram versus BJP in Sikar

Considered the heart of Shekhawati, Sikar is another significant Jat-dominated region in Rajasthan which went to polls in the first phase on April 19. Apart from caste nuances, the population here is also focusing on major national issues including the farmers.

INDIA Alliance has fielded CPIM’s Amra Ram, popularly known as ‘comrade’ against the two-term BJP MP Sumedhanand Saraswati.

Amra Ram is being viewed as a challenger as he is a local and residents say that he has been among people, helping them and paving a solution for their problems despite not being in any position.

Ram was the President of All India Kisan Sabha from July 2013 to October 2017 and led the Sikar Kisan Movement 2017. He has been pushing the problems of farmers in his campaign. He has been associated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) since 2014 and has also been the State Secretary of the CPIM Rajasthan unit and a CEC member of CPI(M). He has won the Best MLA award for the year 2011 from Rajasthan Government.

After 1996, he had contested for the Sikar Lok Sabha constituency seat at least 6 times but never won. Residents say, “This has never defeated his will to work for people. He has always been there.”

People have a lot of resentment against Saraswati who recently made statements against the Jat students in the region. He had said, “Jat coaching centre is a hub of hooliganism” and it has repelled the Jat voters saying that “now there will be a Jat wave”.

Dausa: inclined towards Congress

Dausa, traditionally influenced by Congress but shifting towards BJP in recent years, is now witnessing a potential shift again. This year’s election features a notable clash between two Meena candidates: Congress’s Murali Lal Meena, a former state minister, and BJP’s Kanhaiya Lal Meena, a former MLA and state minister. 

The contest is seen as a test of Sachin Pilot’s influence, who won Dausa for Congress in 2004 at a young age. Since then, the seat has alternated between Independent and BJP candidates. Sachin Pilot’s active campaigning, along with allegations of corruption in government schemes by Kirori Lal Meena, now in BJP, has made the challenging seat a little included towards Congress.

Kota: Vasundhara Raje’s absence from campaign

In Kota, Lok Sabha speaker, BJP’s Om Birla is seeking a hat-trick win this time against Congress’s Prahlad Gunjal. Gunjal had won twice on a BJP ticket from the Kota North assembly seat before joining Congress.

Kota has an estimated 20.9 lakh voters, and Gunjal is targeting Congress’s traditional support base, particularly the 2.7 lakh Muslims, 2.3 lakh Meenas and over 2 lakh Brahmins.

Vasundhara Raje’s absence from BJP’s campaign is also being viewed as undeclared support for Gunjal and Sachin Pilot’s support can bag a seat for Congress in Kota. Even though Gujjars have traditionally supported BJP, Gunjal’s shift to Congress, many believe, will garner a good amount of votes for the party.

Jodhpur: ‘Save Sanatan Dharma” between Congress and BJP

BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, a two-term MP is in a faceoff with Congress’s Rajput candidate Karan Singh Udaychira, contesting his first elections and centring elections on the local water pipeline issue along with the ‘adhoore waade’ made by Shekhawat in the last decade.

While Shekhawat is trying to woo the voters in the name of protecting ‘Sanatan Dharma’ and watching the international borders while promises made by him remain unfulfilled in the last 10 years of his tenure.

BJP didn’t Deliver Promises Made in the Last decade

Advocate Kashif Zubery, All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen’s state spokesperson and a lawyer who keeps an eye on political and communal development in the state said to Maktoob, “People are now aware, they want development rather than just words. In the last ten years, BJP did nothing, don’t know how much Congress will do but people are now giving their trust to Congress as they have earlier showed their support to Congress.”

He said, “The youth has voted for the Congress as the major issue here right now is unemployment and BJP did nothing to deliver its promises. People are also angry due to the paper leak scam and not interested in BJP’s communal politics, so they are denying it.”

“Rajasthan is now looking at development, progress and change”, said Zubery.

Barmer: An independent candidate gets noticed

Ravinder Bhati, a 26-year-old independent candidate, is making the wind run in his favour in the Barmer seat for his distinct style of presenting the issues of people has very much impressed not only youth but the older generation.

The competition here is not just between Congress and BJP but also Bhati, a local Rajput.

BJP has once again fielded its sitting MP, Kailash Choudhary, while Congress has fielded Umedaram Beniwal, a recent recruit from RLP.

Barmer has a mixed population of Jats, Rajputs, minorities, Scheduled Castes and other communities.

Khan said, “Bhati’s ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ in the region during his election campaign was seen as a good effort and the support can be substantiated with the fact that he started it with a few numbers and it turned into a mass movement in a few days. He can sweep the seat as people are looking at him as hope.”

Banswara: Adivasi Party shining

A five-month-old outfit known as Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) has taken all the attention in the Adivasi-dominated Banswara seat and later got the support of INDIA Alliance.

Even though Congress backs BAP, the earlier announced candidate of Congress Arvind Damor is still contesting after he refused to take back his nomination.

The competition is now between BAP’s Rajkumar Roat from the INDIA bloc. and BJP’s Mahendrajeet Malviya, who recently switched from Congress.

The region became noticed because of PM Narendra Modi’s speech given in the constituency accusing Congress of “distributing the properties of Hindus to Muslims”.

BAP is an offshoot of Bhartiya Tribal Party (BTP), which had contested nine seats in the 2018 assembly elections and became a national headline when Rajkumar Roat won the Chorasi seat and Ram Prasad Dindor won the Sagwara seat, both from BTP. 

Kanti Roat, a founding member of the Rajasthan wing of what was then the BTP managed to secure more than two lakh votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha from Dugarpur-Banswara.

Talking to Maktoob, Nishat Hussain, founder and President of the National Muslim Women Welfare Society, established in 1989 for the welfare of women in the state said, “This election is a challenge not only for the opposition political party but also for the people of the nation and its future. The outcome will either sail the ship of the country or will sink it further and the time to come will be more scary.”

Hussain, who works around the political and social development of women said, “The speech given by Modi in the region is a moment to introspect let alone investigate. Muslims want to live in peace, we have our property, so why would we want Congress to give the properties of the killers? We need to see, who is the threat to the country, either Muslims or people who killed Gandhi, Indira and Rajeev.”

“People say that Modi has sold everything, it is true, but he has also bought things. Modi for himself bought Media, Judiciary and independent agencies who only and only work to exemplify his lies and propaganda furthered by his party”, said Hussain.

Hussain added, “We made a special team for this Lok Sabha election called ‘Election Watch’ comprising women as our contribution to save this country, democracy and constitution. With our analysis on the ground, we can say that Congress is at least coming in the state and will get more seats because people are fed up with hate and nobody ever wanted that in the very first place.”

Khan, giving an estimate, also said that Congress will win at least 7 to 10 seats, while Zubery also indicated a 10.


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