The BJP emerged triumphant in the high-stakes Rajasthan civic polls on Thursday but the Congress claimed “moral victory” after netting two municipalities in the assembly constituency of chief minister Vasundhara Raje who is battling corruption charges.
After a disastrous show in the general election, the Congress closed the gap with the ruling party in the polls that some analysts called a political test for Raje and her son, Lok Sabha lawmaker Dushyant Singh, accused of helping controversial former IPL chief Lalit Modi in return for financial benefits.
While the BJP won 71 of the 129 civic bodies that went to the polls with the Congress bagging 44, the ruling party lost two of three municipalities in the Jhalawar district represented by Raje in the state assembly and her son in Parliament.
The party also surrendered the municipal council in the CM’s bastion Dholpur, which was at the centre of a political controversy recently over the ownership of its royal palace. However, political observers as well as BJP workers attributed the loss here to “election mismanagement”, denying any role of “national controversies”.
State BJP president Ashok Parnami claimed the party would come to power in 80-100 local bodies and said voters debunked the myth that his party only did well in urban areas, pointing to an overall rise in its vote percentage from 31.65% in 2000 to 37.16% this time.
“We have pradhans in a record 157 (rural) panchayat samitis,” he said.
The party leadership was also dismissive of the losses on the chief minister’s home turf.
“If we are looking at the loss in Jhalawar, we should also credit the CM for massive victories at other places,” said Onkar Singh Lakhawat, BJP in-charge for the polls.
Experts said the Congress could have put up a better show had it managed to quell the dissent within its ranks.
The opposition party said it improved its vote share and did much better than the Lok Sabha elections where it lost all 25 seats, but the BJP rubbished the claim.
“I am satisfied with the results of the polls. Congress workers stood by all the challenges thrown up by the ruling BJP which misused its power,” said state Congress chief Sachin Pilot. “We have been able to improve our vote share and have handed a crushing defeat to the ruling party in the chief minister's constituency.”
Independent candidates did surprisingly well in the elections, winning 703 of 3,351 wards. While the BJP bagged 1,443, the Congress wasn’t far behind at 1,164.
Analysts said the two major parties would now use all means to woo the standalone councillors, especially in places like Nohar, where the independents won 19 out of 30 wards, and in Gangapur City where the BJP and Congress picked up 18 wards each out of 45.