On Thursday, The Indian Express reported how party rebels are causing worries to Congress and BJP candidates in at least 60 seats in rajasthan. As the state votes Friday, a look at poll history shows why independents (mostly rebels denied party tickets) could hold the key to who forms the government this time, too.
Independents’ vote share in Rajasthan has never dipped below 20% since the 1990 Assembly elections. The high share has meant independents and parties other than the Congress and BJP have never won fewer than 14 seats in the 200-member House. In the last Assembly polls when the BJP won 163 seats, the Congress was reduced to 21 and independents and others still managed 16.
Among the few largely two-party states in the country, where only the Congress and BJP are the prime contenders, Rajasthan currently accounts for the most independents, ahead of Madhya Pradesh (7), Gujarat (6), Himachal Pradesh (3), Uttarakhand (2) and Chhattisgarh (2).
The consistent vote share, coupled with a high conversion rate, has effectively turned what should have been bipolar contests into three-way battles. Incidentally, when Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as Chief Minister in 2008, it was with the support of six BSP MLAs and a few independents, many of whom were Congress rebels denied tickets. The six BSP MLAs eventually defected to the Congress and were made ministers or parliamentary secretaries.
While the Congress has expelled 35 leaders for anti-party activities in the run-up to Friday’s polls, the BJP has expelled 11, including four ministers. Senior Congress and BJP leaders agreed that independents or rebels are hard to predict but added they have learnt how to factor them in.
Sanjay Lodha, professor of Political Science, Mohan Lal Sukhadia University, who carried out Lokniti-ABP ‘Mood of the Nation’ surveys in Rajasthan for the Centre for Study of Developing Societies, said rebels in Rajasthan have always affected both parties. “In the ’50s and the ’60s, there were genuine independent candidates. The erstwhile royal houses did not support any one party and won elections. A multi-party system did exist. But the competition has become largely two-party for the last 20 years,” he said.
According to Lodha, several independents and candidates from other parties have also been absorbed into the national parties. “There are very few genuine independent candidates who support neither the Congress or BJP. Most independent candidates now are rebels. There might easily be 50 or 60 of them this time who are disgruntled. They may not win but they are spoilers,” he said.