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Rajasthan by-polls: Why Congress feels it has the upper hand

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 8 January 2018, 20:27 IST
(Arya Sharma)

After fighting a close contest in Gujarat, the BJP and the Congress are all set to lock horns in the upcoming by-polls in Rajasthan which are likely to set the trend for the Assembly elections in the state. The Vidhan Sabha polls are due in the state later this year and the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government is battling anti-incumbency and these by-polls are an acid test for her popularity.

Both the Congress and the BJP have announced candidates for the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha seats and the Mandalgarh Assembly seat that go to polls on 29 January. The by-polls on these seats were necessitated after the deaths of the two sitting parliamentarians and Mandalgarh legislator.

The stakes are so high that the BJP decided to field Dr Jaswant Singh Yadav, sitting MLA from Behror and a Cabinet minister in the state government, for the Alwar seat which fell vacant after sitting MP Mahant Chand Nath passed away in September last year. Similarly, the saffron party has fielded Ramswarup Lamba, son of former Union minister Sanwar Lal Jat, from the Alwar seat. Jat was the sitting MP from Alwar and passed away in August last year. For the Mandalgarh seat, the BJP has fielded incumbent Bhilwara district president Shakti Singh Hada.

Meanwhile, the Congress has fielded former MP Karan Singh Yadav from Alwar, former MLA Raghu Sharma from Ajmer and Vivek Dhakad from Mandalgarh. Congress was the first to announce Karan Singh's name while the two parties announced the names of the rest of the candidates on 7 January.

Each of the two Lok Sabha seats has eight Vidhan Sabha segments. If we add Mandalgarh to that, as many as 17 Assembly segments will be voting on 29 January. The Rajasthan Assembly has 200 seats in all.

With the Assembly elections a few months away, political pundits are seeing these elections as a semi final before the two parties fight it out to gain control of the state.
Battling anti-incumbency, the BJP government is on the back foot in the state that has seen the two parties share power alternatively in the past elections.

Upbeat Congress

The Congress leadership is upbeat about the by-polls and the upcoming Assembly elections and is citing the growing disenchantment against the Raje government over multiple issues. In fact, they point out the party's improved performance in the recently held by polls for the Zila Parishad.

In December, the Grand Old Party won all four Zila Parishad seats, 16 of the 27 Panchayat Samiti seats and six Nagar Palika seats. Back then Congress state president Sachin Pilot had claimed that the countdown to BJP's fall in the state has begun.

“The winds of change are blowing in Rajasthan and it will uproot the corrupt Raje regime that has wrecked havoc in the state. They have stopped subsidies meant for poor and the rising price of essential commodities has enraged the people of the state. If one looks at the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Rajasthan is at the top of the list on multiple fronts,” said Archana Sharma, Media Chairperson, Rajasthan PCC.

In fact, the NCRB data reveals that Rajasthan ranks second in human trafficking while it ranks third in rape cases and atrocities against SC/STs. She went on to add how Rajasthan has turned into a hate laboratory by those associated with BJP, which is reflected in the increase in number of incidents of lynching and other heinous crimes against the minorities.

“Whenever such incidents happen, BJP leaders are somehow complicit in these crimes. Further, they make such statements which are fanning communal passions. Instead of putting them behind bars, the state government is openly supporting them. People of Rajasthan do not endorse such blatant misuse of power,” Sharma added.

Highlighting the failures of the government, Sharma added how the state is witnessing a spike in deaths due to malnutrition, swine flu and new born deaths which have been proved by the reports of the state government. She further highlighted the growing agrarian crisis in the state which has led to farmers committing suicides across the state.

“They have been dilly-dallying on the loan waiver issue. Earlier, they said we will form a committee and now they are saying something about Kerala model. Even the farmers of Rajasthan are fed up with BJP government,” she said.

He further added how the by-polls and even Assembly elections will be determined by who fields better candidates. According to him, the by-polls would not have much bearing on the Assembly elections and it will finally come down to candidate selection. “People will vote for candidates and not for one man. In these by-polls, we certainly have better candidates. If the BJP drops 100 odd MLAs, they have an outside chance of giving a tough fight but I don't see that happening,” he said.

On the Congress candidates for the by-polls, Khachariyawas said that Dr Karan Singh is a good candidate and he is certain to win because the BJP candidate is a minister and will have to face anti-incumbency. “In fact, if they would have fielded a non minister, Singh would have won without a fight,” he added.

When questioned whether Modi magic would have any effect on the people of Rajasthan, Sharma mentioned how the BJP performed poorly in all those constituencies in Gujarat which share their borders with Rajasthan. On the issue of too many leaders claiming for the top post in the Congress, Sharma added that Opposition is raising this issue since they have nothing else to talk about. “We are all united and there are no differences within the party. We will win and even the BJP knows it,” Sharma concluded.

First published: 8 January 2018, 20:27 IST