Bad news continues to ring in for the BJP from Rajasthan with the party losing all three — two Lok Sabha and one Vidhan Sabha — seats to Congress in the recently-held bypolls. The results, which come ahead of Rajasthan polls due later this year, must be particularly disappointing for Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
A party leader said that following farmer agitation, the High Court stay on Gujjar reservation Bill, controversy over an Ordinance that prohibited probe against public servants without sanction, incidents of cow vigilantism and the recent Padmaavat controversy, “the CM had devoted herself wholeheartedly to the bypolls, to tide over the stream of such news”.
The party leaders were hoping that if the BJP wins, it will be a stamp of approval on Raje government, and that the damage from these issues is not as bad as being made out by Congress or in the media. However, the results indicate that the issues have dented BJP’s prospects ahead of the Assembly polls.
The bypolls were held in a total of 17 assembly segments — Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha constituencies include eight Vidhan Sabha segments each, and the Mandalgarh Assembly seat. Together, they represent 8.5 per cent seats out of a total 200 Assembly seats. Hence, they were being termed “semi-finals” ahead of the upcoming Assembly polls later this year.
Moreover, Alwar is adjacent to Haryana, Ajmer in central Rajasthan, while Mandalgarh is near Madhya Pradesh border. So the results also indicate that the voter mood is largely similar across the state, and not just in pockets.
Caste factor appears to have favoured Congress, with Rajput outfits backing the party following the outrage against Padmaavat, and encounters of history-sheeter Chatur Singh and gangster Anandpal. Gujjars, too, were unhappy after both the Bills brought by the government for their reservation were stayed by the High Court.
Another issue was farm distress. In September last year, BJP announced farm loan waiver up to Rs 50,000 after a 13-day farmer agitation in Shekhawati region, but has not acted upon it. Businessmen and traders have also complained that GST and demonetisation hit their businesses.
The results will also mean that voices within BJP may grow louder; rebel BJP MLA Ghanshyam Tiwari Thursday said that “the public has punished the Raje government and the central leadership, rather than removing her, has permitted her government to carry on with its loot for four years.” Raje’s relations with the party’s central leadership will be under closer scrutiny as the central leadership may move to put its house here in order. The candidates were her choice, and the central leadership stayed away from the campaigning.
However, BJP can take solace in the fact that some of its supporters wanted to give it a “wake-up call” owing to its policies, and may return to its fold later this year for assembly polls and next year for parliamentary polls. In Ajmer, Chandresh, 58, told The Indian Express, “We support BJP for its Hindutva (ideology) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but demonetisation and GST have taken a toll on businesses.
Right now, PM Modi is doing as he pleases because there is no opposition, internal or external, to check him.” His friend Sunil Jain, 58, said, “Everything is good about BJP, except its economics. I am a die-hard BJP supporter, but our businesses have suffered because of BJP. So, maybe we will support BJP again in 2019, but right now we want BJP to ‘wake up’.”