Rajasthan’s bipolar polity is on the cusp of undergoing a change, making it a “watershed election” in the desert state. The issue is being hotly debated across the state -- from tharis (roadside tea stalls) to drawing rooms and clubs.
The BJP may well reach within striking distance of its ‘Mission-25’ (winning all 25 LS seats), but the bigger question is whether the political situation is ripe in the state for the emergence of a regional or third front. For the Congress, it seems, Rajasthan is headed the Uttar Pradesh or Bihar way.
In Rajasthan, the BJP and the Congress have alternatively assumed power every five years. The political trends of more than a decade also show that the party assuming power in the state usually goes on to establish its dominance by winning maximum seats in the LS polls.
The Congress won the assembly elections in 1998 and romped home with 20 Lok Sabha seats in the succeeding parliamentary elections. The BJP swept Rajasthan in 2003 and went on to win 20 Lok Sabha seats. In 2008, the Congress returned to power and cornered 21 Lok Sabha seats.
“It is early days yet. But it seems likely that Third Front parties will make an aggressive bid to capture the political space that the Congress is seen as vacating by launching people-centric movements after the elections,” social scientist Rajeev Gupta said.
A senior Congress leader added: “With several senior party leaders -- including Ashok Gehlot, Dr CP Joshi or Pradyuman Singh -- either staying away or keeping busy fighting their own elections, the political space has been left wide open for the emergence of a third force. The failure of next-generation leaders to make a mark has added to the Congress’ woes.”
The BJP’s ‘Mission 25’ seems to have been dented because of factors such as chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s “preoccupation” against candidates like former party colleague Jaswant Singh at Barmer. Raje has already made three trips there, spending far more time than necessary.
‘Wrong’ selection of candidates at Sikar and Jhunjhunu has reportedly put the BJP on the defensive. Independants or ‘outsiders’ like Sardar Buta Singh, contesting on the Samajwadi Party ticket from Jalore, are giving the BJP a run for its money in some constituencies.