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Rajasthan is the BJP’s big hope this election. Electoral trends in the desert state of more than a decade have shown that the party that comes to power in the state usually wins majority seats in the succeeding Lok Sabha elections.
In 1998, the Congress won the state and romped home with 20 of the total 25 Lok Sabha constituencies. The BJP swept Rajasthan in 2003 and the subsequent parliamentary elections by returning 20 MPs to the Lok Sabha. In 2008, when the Congress returned to power in the state, it established its dominance by winning 21 parliamentary seats.
“With pre-poll surveys and ground reports indicating that the saffron party has an edge over the Congress in the assembly polls, BJP leaders are anticipating a double benefit of sorts — winning the assembly and topping it up by a big win in the 2014 parliamentary elections,” said Rajesh Sharma, editor of the local daily Rashtradoot.
BJP strategists fortify this “force-multiplier” theory by referring to the trend of alternating governments that the state has witnessed in the past two decades. The BJP came to power in 1993, followed by the Congress in 1998, the BJP in 2003 and the Congress again in 2008.
“The saffron team can draw some confidence from the thought that the timing is likely to favour them,” political watcher Muzaffar Bharti said.
Winning the Rajasthan assembly forms a critical component of the BJP’s pan-Indian political strategy for another reason. It already has optimum representation in the Lok Sabha from states where it is in power (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh); there are high stakes involved in being able to expand its footprint to Rajasthan and Bihar.
Playing on the “double anti-incumbency” factor (stated failures of the UPA government at the Centre and the Ashok Gehlot government in the state), BJP strategists are focusing on getting bulk gains in high-value areas in which it had fared badly in the previous elections.
These areas include the Mewar belt, comprising Udaipur, Dungarpur and Banswara (28 seats) districts, and the ‘Shekhawati’ belt, stretching over Sikar, Churu and Jhunjhunu (21 seats) districts.
“Due to the faulty ticket distribution exercise and the perceived lacklustre performance of the Gehlot government, Jats and Muslims — traditional vote banks of the Congress — are disenchanted,” said social worker Ashfaq Kayamkhani.