Five months after the BJP lost the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, the party made a thumping comeback in the state Thursday, winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats along with its allies.
In most Lok Sabha constituencies of Rajasthan, the Congress candidates could never take the lead, and by Thursday evening, 15 of the 24 BJP candidates in the state were leading by a margin of over 3 lakh votes. The Congress ended up drawing a blank – the same fate it had met in 2014.
Hanuman Beniwal from the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, who had allied with the BJP and contested the elections as the NDA candidate from the Nagaur constituency, also won against Congress candidate Jyoti Mirdha by a margin of 1,81,260 lakh votes.
A combination of factors including factionalism within the party, poor selection of candidates and the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi seem to be the reason behind the undoing of the Congress as it performed even poorly than in 2014 when the BJP had won all 25 Lok Sabha seats.
This year, not only did the BJP increased its vote share in the state, but the saffron party also performed exceptionally well in all those areas where it was defeated by the Congress in the state elections.
Twenty of the 25 NDA candidates increased the winning margins of the party as compared with the 2014 Lok Sabha election results.
According to information available on the Election Commission’s website, the BJP received a vote share of 58.47 per cent this year, which is more than the 54.94 per cent share of votes the party had received in 2014.
The EC data said that the Congress got a vote share of 34.24 per cent which even though was an improvement from the 30.36 per cent share of votes it got in 2014, but still not enough to win seats.
Despite the fact that the Congress had won 6 out of the 8 Assembly seats in Jodhpur during the state elections in December, Vaibhav Gehlot, the Congress’ candidate for the Jodhpur Lok Sabha seat lost to Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat by a margin of 2.74 lakh votes.
Gehlot, the son of Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, made his debut in electoral politics this year from the seat, which was held by his father for five times between 1980 and 1998. But Gehlot couldn’t hold his ground against Shekhawat who first won the seat in 2014. Gehlot received a total of 5,14,448 votes and was trumped by Shekhawat who polled 7,88,888 votes for the constituency.
Manvendra Singh, son of former BJP leader and Union minister Jaswant Singh too couldn’t register a win from the Barmer parliamentary constituency, and lost to BJP candidate, Kailash Choudhary by a margin of 3.23 lakh votes. Back in 2014, his father Jaswant Singh too had contested unsuccessfully as an independent from the seat.
Incidentally, Barmer was also swept by the Congress during the Assembly elections as the party had won 6 out of the 7 seats in the district but it failed to hold on to its gains in the parliamentary polls.
Singh had left the BJP and joined the Congress before the Assembly elections last year and had also unsuccessfully contested against former chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
In Jaipur Rural constituency, Union minister and Olympic silver medallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore defeated another former Olympian and Congress candidate Krishna Poonia, by a thumping margin of 3.93 lakh votes.
Two of the biggest margins of wins came from the Mewar region, known as a stronghold of the BJP.
Diya Kumari, former BJP MLA and member of the erstwhile Jaipur royal family defeated Congress’ Devkinandan Gurjar from the Rajsamand constituency by a massive margin of 5,55,916 votes.
The Bhilwara constituency saw the highest winning margin in the state with incumbent BJP MP Subhash Baheria defeated Ram Pal Sharma of Congress by 6.12 lakh votes.
One of the reasons the BJP lost in the Rajasthan Assembly elections last year was the SC voter deserting it which resulted in the BJP managing to win only 11 out of the 34 seats reserved for the scheduled caste people.
The saffron party’s poor performance in Assembly elections was particularly notable in the places where the state had witnessed violence during and after the April 2 bharat bandh last year which was called by Dalit outfits in protest of the dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act).
This changed on Thursday as the BJP posted substantial leads in all the parliamentary constituencies reserved for the SC.
By Thursday evening, the BJP had won in all four SC seats in the state- Bikaner, Bharatpur, Karauli-Dholpur and Ganganagar- with its candidates including Union Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal registering comfortable wins.
The Congress candidates who lost by huge margins included Ram Pal Sharma from Bhilwara, Chandra Prakash Joshi from Chittorgarh, Jyoti Khandelwal from Jaipur, Devkinandan Gurjar from Rajsamand and Badriram Jakhar from Pali.
After the BJP appeared set to win repeat its 2014 performance in the state by winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats, chief minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted, saying that the party accepts the results with all humility.
Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje tweeted, saying that the ‘verdict is the ultimate testament to the spectacular 5 yrs of Modi Govt. and a confirmation of the bright future that lies ahead.’
Dushyant Singh, incumbent MP from Jhalawar-Baran and son of Raje, defeated Pramod Sharma, the candidate fielded by the Congress by a huge margin of 4.53 lakh votes.
The Congress also lost the plot in the parliamentary constituencies of Alwar and Ajmer which it had won in the 2018 Lok Sabha bye-elections.
In sharp contrast to last year when the Congress had won in every Assembly segment part of the two parliamentary seats, this year it lost Ajmer after its candidate Riju Jhunjhunwala was defeated with a massive margin of 4.16 lakh votes.
The party’s Alwar candidate and former MP Bhanwar Jitendra Singh too lost to BJP’s Mahant Balak Nath by 3.29 lakh votes.
In the Banswara seat, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) which had picked up two seats in the Assembly elections, polled 2.49 lakh votes and came behind Congress’ Tarachand Bhagora and BJP’s Kanakmal Katara, who was leading the seat by a margin of 3.05 lakh votes.
The Shekhawati region comprising the districts of Sikar, Jhunjhuju and Churu too disappointed the Congress as despite the party winning 14 out of 21 seats in the area during the Assembly elections, the BJP comfortably cruised through in the Lok Sabha elections, with comfortable winning margins of over 2 lakh votes in Sikar and 3 lakh in Churu and Jhunjhunu.
The results appear to suggest that the public chose the BJP with its election narrative weaved around national security and the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Congress’ campaign in the state, centred around welfare schemes such as farm loan waivers, increase in pension along with election rhetoric on the Rafale deal.