In the desert state Rajasthan no party has won back to back elections since 1993. The Congress party was up against a strong historical trend in 2013 elections while attempting to retain the state. Congress had to content with double anti-incumbency wave in the state where the popular mood had swung against the Gehlot government as well as the central Congress led UPA government due to serious corruption allegations and its inability to control prices.
BJP secured historic mandate in the assembly elections held in December 2013 by winning more than 80% of the 200 constituencies, pocketing more than 46% of vote share, a surge of nearly 9% over its performance in the previous assembly elections. Congress was reduced to its worst performance. Vasundhara Raje became the Chief Minister for the second time in Rajasthan.
Trend maintained in 2013
The 2013 Rajasthan assembly elections was special in many ways. Kirodi Lal Meena, who had contested as an independent in 2008, this time was contesting under the banner of P.A. Sangma’s party NPP. The turnout witnessed a massive increase of 7.8% from the 66.5% witnessed in 2008 breaking all records. As it normally happens during such an increase in voting percentage, the incumbent government was thrown out.
Meena proved to be ineffective and the BJP won a historic performance winning 163 seats in the 200-member assembly. This is the best performance of any party in the electoral history of the state. Earlier, the record was held by Congress, when the party won 153 seats in the 1998 elections.
Congress loss 3% vote share, 75 seats
In the 2013 elections, the vote share of the party was 33.7 per cent compared to 36.8 per cent in 2008. This reduction of three per cent was so devastating for the Congress, that it lost 75 seats. Congress got reduced to just 21 seats in 2008 from 96 seats.
On the other hand, BJP’s vote share reached 46 percent with nine percent increase over 2008. As a result, the BJP, which won 78 seats in 2008, gained 85 seats. There were 3 seats in BSP’s account and others had to be satisfied with 9 seats. Kirodi Lal Meena’s party NPP won only in 4 seats. The victory was fairly comprehensive. There were only 25 seats, where the margin of defeat was less than five thousand votes. In all of these seats, BJP was either the winner or runner-up.
BJP leads in reserved seats
The SC-ST category also supported the BJP. The BJP’s stand on reserved seats for these sections was huge. Compared to the previous election figures, it is clear that this class has been dispersed from the Congress and went to the BJP’s favor. The increase in these seats also played an important role in the BJP’s historic victory.
Vasundhara Raje was first choice of people as a Chief Minister
The first choice for the Chief Minister was Vasundhara Raje. According to the post poll survey of CSDS, 48.6% of the voters wanted Vasundhara Raje to be seen as CM. In the survey, Ashok Gehlot was in second place with a choice of 30.4% of the voters. CP Joshi and Sachin Rajesh Pilot also could not stay ahead of Vasundhara Raje and in the race of popularity, were far behind with the 1.4% and 0.7% respectively.
There were many reasons why the people of Rajasthan voted against the Congress. One was inflation, party was unable to control the price hike especially in food items. The other was Gopalgarh Kand, where 13 people were shot dead and 38 injured. Public was angry because the of party’s inability to stop violence.
The Congress party was banking on its social welfare schemes such as free medicines, pensions, distribution of wheat at 2 Rs./kg etc. to minimize the anti-incumbency effect. It was also banking on winning a sizable number of the 58 seats reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes. It had won 34 of them in 2008. But the plans didn’t materialize in 2013.
Farmers in the state were complaining about the high diesel prices that caused their cost of production to increase. To counter the anger, Congress party promised that if it comes to power again it will improve irrigation facility in the state. Congress also faced backlash for slow progress in building basic infrastructure such as roads and power. Young voters were complaining about the lack of job opportunities in Rajasthan. Many of them planed to move out of the state for better career prospects.
-The Modi factor
BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi introduced a new dimension to the elections. Modi was very popular in the state particularly among the youth and his campaign drew traction from rural as well as urban voters. BJP’s Chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje was able to harness Modi’s goodwill to her advantage. Modi’s presence helped contained infighting in the party which was one of the main reasons attributable to BJP’s loss in 2008 elections.
The political mood of the voters of Rajasthan is change is essential for development. Now the BJP is in power. The ruling party has been defeated in many by-elections in the state. In 2018, whether people will retain the 20 year old tradition or the queen of the Jhalawar will make a history, will be known in a few months…