Vasundhra Raje, the incumbent CM, is putting up a tough fight to retain power in the face of a strong Congress campaign
A rising stock market this week could be feeding off ground level reports that claim the Bharatiya Janata Party is making a tentative recovery in the campaign for the Rajasthan assembly.
The Nifty, that was down 155 points last week, has surged 158 points so far (a rise of 1.50 per cent) in the first two trading sessions this week. The main impetus is clearly from the ongoing crash in crude oil prices. But, the news filtering in from Rajasthan could also be feeding into the sense of optimism in the markets.
Reports flowing in from political circles is that the BJP may be closing the vote share gap against the Congress in Rajasthan and that Vasundhara Raje, the incumbent chief minister, is putting up a tough fight to retain power in the face of a strong Congress campaign that has fed off strong anti-incumbency against the BJP regime.
Rajasthan was said to be lost cause for the BJP from the beginning. Most political analysts believed that Congress will have a clean sweep in the north Indian state as a large number of people in the land of royalty were fed up with the Vasundhara Raje government. It appeared to be a cakewalk for the grand old party to win at least this state among the five including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Mizoram.
However, over the last few days, a synchronized effort from the central leadership of the BJP has raised hope of a comeback for Raje as the state’s chief minister. A victory in Rajasthan for the BJP will feed into greater expectations of a BJP win at the centre in 2019.
The C-Voter opinion poll based on the second week of November survey measured the vote difference between two parties at eight per cent, giving the ruling BJP only 45 seats with 39.7 per cent vote share against 47.9 per cent of the opposition Congress.
The ABP-CSDS survey conducted on 8 November for Rajasthan put the vote difference between Congress and the BJP at four per cent with the former garnering 45 per cent while the latter settling at 41 per cent.
After a series of defeats in the by-elections and local body polls, shook the Raje government. Prior to those defeats, Raje seldom shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in political rallies. Raje was also assertive on the distribution of tickets to her loyalists-something that national party president Amit Shah is said to have had a problem with. But with time, Raje has accepted the authority of Shah in the allocation of tickets and this has resulted in better relations with the centre. As a result, both Amit Shah and Modi seem to be leaving no stone unturned in ensuring a second consecutive turn for Raje as the chief minister of the state.
Clash of Titans within Congress
While the BJP leadership has learnt to deal with the ego of big political leaders, the situation has deteriorated within Congress in the past three weeks. It is for this reason both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin pilot would be fighting elections from Congress and would present a candidature for chief-ministership in case of a victory.
However, this internal clash of aspirations between the two stalwarts in the state has contributed significantly in putting up a disjointed effort in the ongoing election campaign. Moreover, as in other states, the BJP is targeting the Congress for not having a face for chief-ministership before the elections.
Congress is already on the backfoot due to the party leader, CP Joshi’s casteist comments against PM Modi. While Congress president Rahul Gandhi has tried to control the damage by reprimanding Joshi, but the BJP has managed to project it as an anti- backward caste mentality of the former.
It’s ironical that Congress leaders have time and again committed the same sin of launching personal attacks against Modi, just ahead of crucial elections. There’s a view among political experts that Mani Shankar Aiyar’s ‘neech’ comment just ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections in December 2017 caused significant damage to the party’s image ahead of polling day.
If this was not enough to create problems for Congress, PM Modi has lined up 10 rallies in just 12 days ahead of polls in Rajasthan. Over the last four years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has established himself as the game-changer in all the state elections where the local leadership was struggling to woo the voters.
BJP’s victory in Gujarat and the status of the single largest party in Karnataka was a clear example of Modi’s ability to change the mind of the voter in the last week before polling day.
In case the BJP manages to prove all opinion polls on Rajasthan wrong, Congress will be credited for turning an easy victory into defeat, once again.