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Rajasthan bypolls: In election year, BJP gets a drubbing

While Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje did not comment, BJP state president Ashok Parnami said, “We respect the mandate and will analyse where we were lacking in each of the three seats. We can gain the support of the people once again.''

Written by Manoj C G , Hamza Khan | Jaipur/new Delhi |
Updated: August 20, 2018 1:32:03 pm
In election year, BJP gets a drubbing in Rajasthan bypolls Congress party workers celebrate their victory in the bye-elections at the party headquarters in Jaipur on Thursday. (Express photo by Rohit Jain Paras)

In a major setback to the BJP in Rajasthan, which goes to assembly polls later this year, the Congress swept bypolls to three seats in the state earlier held by the ruling party. Thursday’s results in the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats and Mandalgarh assembly seat indicated a massive swing in vote share towards the Congress.

The Congress vote share in Alwar and Ajmer increased by 25 per cent and 11 per cent compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, while the BJP’s share in the same seats dipped by 20 per cent and 10 per cent. In Alwar, the Congress vote share jumped almost 25 per cent compared to its showing in 2014 when it lost by 2.83 lakh votes. The BJP had polled more than 60 per cent in 2014 and was down to 40 per cent this time.

On Thursday, the Congress’ Dr Karan Singh Yadav defeated the BJP’s Dr Jaswant Singh Yadav. BJP incumbent Mahant Chand Nath had died in September last year following a prolonged illness. The Congress vote share increased from 33.71 per cent of votes polled in 2014 to almost 58 per cent in 2018.

State Congress President Sachin Pilot, in 2014, had lost the Ajmer seat to the BJP’s Sanwar Lal Jat – who died in July last year – by a margin of almost 1.71 lakh votes, a trend that reversed Thursday. After securing 40 per cent of the vote share in 2014, the Congress, under candidate Raghu Sharma, recorded 51 per cent of the vote share. The BJP had fielded Jat’s son Ramswaroop Lamba.

The Congress also gained an assembly seat after winning the Mandalgarh constituency bypoll, necessitated after the death of BJP incumbent Kirti Kumari, in August last year while undergoing treatment for Swine Flu.

Kumari, in 2013, had cornered 50.07 per cent of total votes polled, ahead of Congress candidate Vivek Dhakar’s 38.90 per cent. On Thursday, Dhakar, nominated again, won 39.50 per cent of total votes polled, while the BJP’s Shakti Singh Hada secured 32.19 per cent of votes polled.

“The people have protected democracy from BJP, which, seeing its religious appeasement failing, turned to caste polarisation,” said Congress state president Sachin Pilot, after demanding Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s resignation on “moral grounds.”

“From CM to ministers and party leaders, BJP tried to mislead the public and pressed government machinery. There were frequent sops announced by the government and BJP devised several formulas – panna pramukh, vistarak, pracharak, etc. but the public has made its intentions clear,” Pilot said, terming it a “new year gift” for party president Rahul Gandhi.

While Raje is yet to issue a statement, BJP state president Ashok Parnami said “We respect the mandate and will analyse where we were lacking in each of the three seats. We have a strong belief that we can gain the support of the people once again and form a government in the upcoming assembly polls.”

Referring to BJP as “a huge banyan tree”, Parnami said, “Congress should not rejoice as BJP isn’t a small tree.”

The BJP leadership in Delhi claimed Rajasthan’s results were along expected lines even as party leaders admitted that it “gave enough worry for the leadership.” Though senior leaders argued the humiliating defeat neither indicated the weakening of BJP’s dominance nor the decreasing popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, they admitted the debacle of its candidates with huge margins had made them nervous.

“We have to take some steps in Rajasthan. We have to see what can be done,” said a senior party leader. Asked if the party would consider a leadership change, as Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had drawn criticism for her style of functioning, the leader said his remark could not be interpreted like that.

Victory after a string of defeats since 2014 for the Congress will prove a morale booster senior party leaders said. “Well done Rajasthan Congress! Proud of each and every one of you. This is a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan.”Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted after results were announced.

A senior Congress leader said, “Urban voters had moved away from us. That we got a nearly 20,000 vote lead in Ajmer City shows that the tide is turning in our favour.”

Sources in the Congress said they had deployed some 3000 middle and lower rung leaders to manage the elections up to ward and panchayat levels. For instance, Congress leaders of “some calibre” were deployed in every panchayat of Ajmer and Alwar. “Every panchayat, there was a Congress person in charge. A zilla pramukh or ex-MLA or sitting Pradhan….And persons from outside districts were as deployed to depute. Congress leaders from 15 districts camped in these two seats for the last one month,” a senior leader said.

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