Congress wins Rajasthan bypolls: Why Raje & Modi are in for a major rout in the state
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has suffered a humiliating defeat in the by-elections to the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha seats and Mandalgarh Vidhan Sabha seat in Rajasthan. This is bad news for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje because if the trends reflected in the by-polls continue, she is heading for a massive rout in the Assembly elections later this year.
People in 17 Vidhan Sabha segments out of Rajasthan’s 200 constituencies voted in these by-elections. The BJP’s vote share fell by 6% in these constituencies put together compared to the 2013 Vidhan Sabha elections. Compare it to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it is an even bigger fall: 14%. If this swing is replicated in the Vidhan Sabha elections, BJP’s tally in Rajasthan could fall by over 100 seats.
BJP tried every trick in the book to win the bypolls but nothing seems to have worked for the saffron party. Nowhere is this more evident than in Alwar. Here the BJP candidate Jaswant Singh Yadav had blatantly tried to polarise the electorate on communal lines when he said, “If you’re Hindu, vote for me and if you’re Muslim, vote for the Congress”. It must be remembered that Alwar has been the epicenter of several attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes, such as the lynching of Pehlu Khan last year.
Congress’ Karan Singh Yadav, who had represented the seat from 2004 to 2009, has emerged victorious with a huge margin of 1.96 lakh votes. BJP had won the seat by a margin of 2.8 lakh in 2014.
Another former MP Bhanwar Jitendra Singh also played a key role in Yadav’s victory, especially in weaning away a section of the Rajput community from the BJP. On the other hand, Rajput outfits appear to have mobilised support against the BJP. They are upset with the BJP because of the encounter of gangster Anandpal Singh as well as the party's “ambiguous” position on the movie Padmavat
The Congress also won Ajmer, which is a personal triumph for Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot as he had represented the seat from 2009 to 2014. Here the party’s candidate Raghu Sharma won by a margin of over 80,000 votes.
There appears to have been a major consolidation of the Jat community behind the Congress. According to reports, BJP got zero votes in Adarwa, a Jat dominated polling booth in Dudu Assembly segment of Ajmer. This, despite the fact that the BJP had fielded a Jat while the Congress had fielded a Brahmin.
BJP gets 0 votes at Adarwa polling booth in Dudu tehsil. Jats are the majority community in the village, not what you might have thought first. Everyone knows the real enemy of the nation now. :P :P #RajasthanByPolls #Ajmer #Alwar— Samar (@Samar_Anarya) February 1, 2018
In Mandalgarh, Congress rebel Gopal Malviya gave a scare to the party’s official candidate Vivek Dhakar by cornering over 40000 votes. However, the Congress still managed to win by a margin of 12,976 votes.
Huge swing against Raje
The swing against the BJP is particularly huge in Alwar. Compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s vote share has fallen by 20% while the Congress’ has increased by 24%. In Mandalgarh, the BJP’s vote share has fallen by 23%, while the Congress’ has increased by 3%. The real beneficiary here has been the rebel Congress candidate.
BJP’s vote share has fallen by 14% compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and the Congress’ vote share has increased by 16%. If this swing is replicated in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress could end up winning 17 seats out of 25 and BJP 8. In 2014, BJP had won all the 25 seats.
If we compare the vote share to the 2013 Vidhan Sabha elections, BJP’s vote share has fallen by 6% in these 17 segments while the Congress’ vote share has increased by 23%. If this trend continues, the BJP could lose over a 110 seats from its present tally of 163. The Congress, on the other, hand could be a little short of 150 in the Assembly, which means a complete turnaround in the state.
However, it isn’t just Raje, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to worry. The BJP’s defeat isn’t just a verdict against Raje but also PM Modi.
In a recent survey by Lokniti-CSDS, Rajasthan reported the highest fall in PM Modi’s popularity in the past one year. According to the survey, in May 2017, 83% respondents in Rajasthan had said that they are satisfied with Modi’s performance while only 12% were dissatisfied. But in January this year 59% people said they were satisfied, a fall of 24%. 38% respondents said they were dissatisfied with Modi’s performance, 26% more than May 2017.
This is bad news for the BJP. It needs a major overhaul in Rajasthan and it wouldn't be surprising if the knives are brought out for Raje. On the other hand, the Congress under Sachin Pilot will surely fancy its chances of finally defeating the BJP in a direct contest, a first for the party since Modi became Prime Minister.