Will battleground Mewar spring a surprise in polls?
In Rajasthan politics, an old saying is: ‘whoever wins Mewar, wins the state’. In 2018 assembly elections, the voters of the region broke this trend. The Congress won the state but failed to win Mewar that comprises seven districts of south Rajasthan.
Another trend in Rajasthan has been this: the party that is in rule in the state wins most seats in the Lok Sabha elections, which take place a few months after the state polls.
With Mewar going to polls on April 29, the biggest question in 35 assembly seats of this region is: will Mewar break the trend again? Mewar has five Lok Sabha seats – Banswara-dungarpar, Udaipur, Rajsamand, Chittorgarh and Bhilwara – comprising five assembly segments of Ajmer and Jodhpur districts along with those of the five Mewar districts.
In 2014, the BJP won all 5 (the party won all 25 LS seats of the state). This was preceded by the BJP’S landslide in the assembly elections when the party won 163 seats in the house of 200. In Mewar’s 35 seats, BJP won 31.
In 2009, the Congress won all 5 after the party came to power in the state in 2008. The party won 24 seats in Mewar in the assembly elections.
In 2018 assembly elections, the Congress came to power with 100 seats, but lost Mewar. The party won only 12 out of 35 assembly seats. The results surprised political experts.
“Since the first election in the state, Mewar has been voting for the party that wins te state. The last assembly polls were the first when the party that won the mandate to rule Rajasthan failed to win Mewar. The reason is that the Congress gradually ignored its leadership in Mewar,” says Pramod Tiwari, a political expert in Bhilwara.
The only Rajasthani in the Congress Working Committee, Raghuvir Singh Meena, lost the assembly poll. The party has given him LS ticket from Udaipur. The only Congress leader from Mewar in state’s central
election committee, Girija Vyas, also lost the assembly poll.
A senior Congress leader of Mewar, who didn’t want to be named, said the party didn’t focus on developing an upper caste leadership in the tribal areas, which saw a tectonic shift in political activity following the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA). “Now there are tribal leaders even at the ward level. In such a scenario, it is important for a party to promote upper caste leaders. Look at BJP – they have a Gulab Chand Kataria who’s roamed the tribal areas on motorcycle for 20 years; they sent Harshvardhan Singh from the royal family of Dungarpur to the Rajya Sabha,” he says.
The leader adds that in the past the Congress had stalwarts, such as Haridev Joshi and Gulab Singh Shaktawat in Mewar. “BJP has infiltrated into tribal support at panchayat level. Their sister organisations – Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad and Vishwa Hindu Parishad – have been working in these areas for several years without aiming for tickets. They are reaping the dividends now,” he says.
Another political expert, Bhupendra Ojha, says the Congress ignored its senior leaders, such as Mahendrajit Singh Malviya and CP Joshi, and the BJP gave its leader a free hand in selecting candidates. “Malviya deserved to be in the Ashok Gehlot cabinet but the Congress ignored him. Joshi has been made the Speaker and is therefore out of active politics. In BJP, Gulab Chand Kataria has had the final say in selection of all 5 LS candidates,” he adds.
BJP leader from Banswara Hakru Mahida said tribals had shifted to the BJP because the party had delivered on development. “For 55 years Congress was in power but no schemes reached tribal areas. When BJP came to power, people in tribal areas for the first time have got houses, toilets and electricity. They feel the Congress has cheated them and so they are supporting the BJP,” he said.
A former district collector of Dungarpur in the Vasundhara Raje regime says: “The BJP government focused on tribal areas and ensured that benefits of development schemes reached the tribal population, too. As a collector, I was told to achieve all targets of free housing and other government schemes.”
In 2018 assembly polls, a new player – Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) – entered the fray in Mewar, contesting on 11 seats. The party won two and was runner-up in one. The party is contesting on three seats of Mewar in LS polls – Banswara-dungarpur, Udaipur and Chittorgarh.
“BJP may continue its winning run. It won decisively in Mewar in assembly elections and may win at least four out of five LS seats of the region,” says Dr Kunjan Acharya, assistant professor at Mohanlal Sukhadia University in Udaipur.
For the common man, the election is all about Modi. “People who do good for the country should return to power,” says Jagdish Prajapat who sells daal baati at Pratap Nagar cross-section on Udaipur-dungarpur road. BL Ameta, who has a general store, agrees: “People ask me if there’s a Modi wave. I say the wave is an undercurrent; people are unable to see it.”
In Dungarpur, Hitesh Vyas, a student of bachelor’s course in nursing, reluctantly says what good has Modi done. “I am a student. I don’t know if I will have a job 2 years later,” he says.