The two major contenders in the 15 th Lok Sabha elections, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have set their sights on Rajasthan, where voting takes place for all the 25 Lok Sabha seats on Thursday.
Since both are aware of the fact that the state may hold the key in a hung Parliament, they have unleashed their star campaigners in the last days of electioneering this week.
Previous election results show that the voters in Rajasthan have a tendency to swing decisively towards one of the two parties. In 1999 and 2004, the BJP won 16 and 21 seats respectively, but suffered a humiliating defeat in 1998, when the Congress won 18 seats.
An interesting aspect of the war this time is that Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his rival and predecessor Vasundhra Raje are leading highly personalised campaigns against each other, making the Lok Sabha elections look like an extension of the Assembly election in December.
Sensing that repeating its 2004 performance would be almost impossible, the BJP had their star campaigner and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan campaign extensively in the state. “We are confident of a good performance this time too,” said BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar.
But the BJP’s own allies are not convinced. Janata Dal (U) president Sharad Yadav, an ally of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), said, “People have not yet forgotten the corrupt Vasundhra Raje regime. We are not willing to campaign for the BJP in Rajasthan, as their credibility is low.”
But organisationally, the Congress is not spick and span either. The party is sharply divided between pro and anti-Gehlot factions.