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Urvashi Dev Rawal, Hindustan Times
Jaipur, February 06, 2014
The writing is clear — at least, so far — on the wall. In the bipolar contest — a long tradition in Rajasthan — in 2014 general elections, the BJP will certainly have advantage, as it had in the assembly polls two months ago.

Nothing has happened since that may make the voter change his mind.

Advantage BJP: chief minister Vasundhara Raje is in complete control — of both the government and the party — while the Congress is still struggling with the same demons: factionalism, lack of a clear strategy and demoralised workers.

Plus, past trends in Rajasthan show a win in the assembly polls is always followed by a victory in the Lok Sabha elections. In 2008, Congress won 96 seats in the 200-member assembly and 20 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress’ great hope, Young Turk Sachin Pilot — handpicked by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to lead the state — has his task cut out. But what queers the pitch for him is the lack of conviction among the state leaders.

Despite the outward show of meek acceptance, raised eyebrows could be spotted in the state party unit, not just about Pilot’s capabilities, but also about the wisdom of choosing him as head of the state unit. Pilot, an MP from Ajmer and a Union minister, had been considered an outsider. For, he is yet to prove that he has a firm finger on the voter’s pulse. And the fact that all eight of his chosen men from Ajmer constituency bit the dust in the assembly polls didn’t help his cause either.

The blame game that began with the rout in the assembly polls is far from over. In fact, while workers blame former CM Ashok Gehlot and his associates, leaders blame workers for failing to discharge their duties. Even in recent meetings in Jaipur and elsewhere, there have been heated exchanges. Under the circumstances, keeping the flock together appears to be an insurmountable task for Pilot. He would need the support of key leaders — Gehlot, his bête noir CP Joshi and former party chief Dr Chandrabhan. But in absence of clear-cut roles, the trinity is disgruntled.

Worse, say party insiders, since there’s no concrete plan of action from the party, facing the voter in three months could result in another disaster.

The BJP, meanwhile, is an enthused lot. The “Mission 25” — repeating the assembly poll sweep in Lok Sabha — is keeping them focused. Raje is juggling caste and region with aplomb and has been careful to carry everyone with her — from the regional satraps to central leaders, besides, of course, the RSS. 

While selecting candidates for Rajya Sabha seats, Raje played her cards well — with 163 seats in the 200-member assembly. Her chosen three were Delhi BJP leader Vijay Goel, who was squeezed out of the Delhi canvas to make Harshvardhan the CM candidate, former minister and Jat leader from Jodhpur Ramnarayan Dudi and Narayan Pancharia, who is close to the RSS. Senior leaders such as state in-charge Kaptan Singh Solanki, Rajya Sabha MP Bhupender Yadav, ministers Rajendra Rathore and Gulab Chand Kataria, one of her detractors earlier, are now part of her inner circle. For the moment, the bonhomie is paying off.

At the organisational level, the morale is high and the party has delegated responsibilities — nominating in-charges for all LS seats as well as drawing up panels for poll management.

The only thing that may upset Raje’s applecart is the possibility of doing an AAP — disappointing the voter on the governance front. But she appears to have a hawk’s eye on that aspect too. Already, she has held review meetings of all departments and chalked out a 60-day programme, which is to be taken up on a priority basis. Officials have been directed to put in place the basics — roads, water, electricity, health facilities and sanitation.

The gambit seems to be paying off. The party high command has given Raje a free hand in deciding on the candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. The party hopes the voter will remain just as impressed.

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