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Friday, December 03, 2021

Explained: Congress’s winning streak in Rajasthan Assembly bypolls

Rajasthan Assembly bypolls: In the past one month, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has mentioned it more than once that he is confident of the Congress’s return to power in the 2023 Assembly elections.

Written by Deep Mukherjee , Edited by Explained Desk | Jaipur |
Updated: November 3, 2021 11:43:28 am
In the past one month, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has mentioned it more than once that he is confident of the Congress’s return to power in the 2023 Assembly elections.

On the brink of completing three years in power, the Congress continued its streak of good performances in bypolls on Tuesday, winning Vallabhnagar and Dhariawad assemblies with comfortable margins. Congress candidates Nagraj Meena and Preeti Shaktawat won Dhariawad and Vallabhnagar assembly constituencies with margins of 18,725 and 20,606 votes, respectively.

In the past one month, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has mentioned it more than once that he is confident of the Congress’s return to power in the 2023 Assembly elections.

In a state where, every five years the incumbent government has been consistently voted out in the last two decades, Gehlot’s statement does sound surprising. In fact, at the end of his previous term as the Chief Minister in 2013, the Congress was decimated to 21 seats in the state Assembly.

One of the reasons behind Gehlot’s pitch for a second-term is the performance of the Congress in Assembly by-elections in the past two years, wherein it has repeatedly outperformed the opposition BJP. This is significantly different from what was the case in bye-elections held between 2014 and 2018, when the Congress, then in opposition, had won the majority of the bye-elections.

What has been the performance of Congress in bypolls held in Rajasthan since 2018?

Since the 2018 Assembly elections, a total of seven Assembly bypolls have been held in Rajasthan for the seats – Mandawa, Khinwsar, Sujangarh, Sahara, Rajsamand, Vallabhnagar and Dhariyawad. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Congress had won in Sujangarh, Sahara, Vallabhnagar while the BJP had bagged the Mandawa, Rajsamand and Dhariyawad seats. The Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) had won in Khinwsar. The bypolls were necessitated either after the death of the sitting MLAs from these seats or the elevation of legislators to the parliament. Of the seven bypolls, the Congress has now won five.

How has the ruling party in Rajasthan fared in bypolls in the past?

During the tenure of the previous BJP government, it was the opposition Congress, which had won the majority of bye-elections, a factor which is often cited by Congress leaders loyal to former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, who at the time of the bye-election wins was the state Congress president. Shortly after its absolute drubbing by the BJP in the 2013 Assembly elections, the Congress had won three out of four Assembly seats in bye-elections held in 2014, a few months after Pilot took charge as the state party president. Later in 2018, the Congress had won another Assembly bye-election along with three Lok Sabha bypolls. In comparison, the ruling BJP could win only two seats in Assembly bypolls when it was in power. The Congress’ narrative of anti-incumbency against the then Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government had been bolstered by the fact that the Congress had led in all Assembly segments which were part of the three parliamentary constituencies where the by-elections were held.

What have been the factors behind the Congress winning the bypolls since 2019?

Some of the factors which have worked in favour of the Congress in the bye-elections held since 2019 have been its ability to retain the seats it had won in the 2018 Assembly elections, public sympathy for deceased local leaders and strong candidates. In Sujangarh and Sahara, the two of the three constituencies where it has won in the bypolls, the winning candidates fielded by the party were the immediate family members of the legislators whose deaths had necessitated the bypolls. In Vallabhnagar, where the Congress is leading, it has fielded the wife of its late legislator Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. In Mandawa, Congress’ Rita Choudhary, who had lost the seat to BJP’s Narendra Kumar by a narrow margin in the 2018 Assembly elections, reclaimed it in bye-elections held in 2019 after Kumar had to vacate the seat after being elected as MP from Jhunjhunu.

What are the factors which have gone against the BJP in the bypolls?

While the Congress, during its time in the opposition, had managed to make inroads in BJP-held constituencies and had won these seats in the bye-elections, the present opposition BJP has not been able to replicate this success. While it retained the Rajsamand Assembly seat by defeating the Congress candidate, the winning margin of the saffron party had decreased after the death of its veteran leader Kiran Maheshwari. The BJP didn’t field a candidate in the Khinwsar Assembly bye-elections wherein it allied with the Hanuman Beniwal-led Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which at the time was a partner in the NDA. While the RLP won the Khinwsar bypoll defeating the Congress, it later left the NDA over the farm law protests. The party also couldn’t win Sujangarh and Sahara where relatives of the deceased Congress MLAs emerged victorious. In Vallabhnagar, the party’s rebel Udailal Dangi spoiled its fortunes by contesting from an RLP ticket. In Pratapgarh district’s Dhariyawad, a seat that the BJP won in the 2018 Assembly elections, poor candidate selection within the party appears to have hurt it. The time when these bye-elections were held was also underlined by reports of tussle between the faction loyal to former CM Raje and the state leadership with Satish Poonia as party president, revealing divisions within the party.

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