Assembly elections 2018: Who will top the closely-fought contest in Rajasthan?
Rajasthan voters are known to elect a new government every five years and if exit polls are anything to go by history may repeat in assembly elections 2018, which witnessed a direct fight between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The assembly election results will be known only on December 11 but six of eight exit polls predict that the Congress will unseat Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of the BJP. Two predict a close race between the parties.
A party needs 100 seats in the 200-member assembly in Rajasthan, where elections were not held on one seat because a candidate died. In 2013, the BJP got 163 seats and a vote share of 46.03%, a jump of about eight percentage points since 2008. The Congress bagged 21 seats with a vote share of 34.27 per cent, a fall of a meagre two percentage points.
The BJP had eaten into the votes of smaller parties and independents, whose vote share shrank by eight percentage points to 20.29 per cent.
This time the Congress is contesting on 195 seats and has given five seats to its allies - two each to Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal and Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, and one to Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Watch: BJP will form government in Rajasthan, says Vasundhara Raje
The BJP is contesting on its own in all seats. Farmer leader Hanuman Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party and Bharatya Tribal Party have put up candidates in several segments and may impact a few seats in their areas of influence.
Whatever is the outcome of the polls (remember, exit polls are known to go wrong), December 11 will be the culmination of one of the most intensely fought election with high-voltage campaigns led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi energizing the party cadre.
The campaign saw top leaders of both the Congress and the BJP campaigning extensively in the state speaking on issues such as construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya, caste of Hindu god Hanuman, caste and family of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, apart from farm and water crisis, jobs, reservation to certain castes, the alleged inaccessibility of chief minister Vasundhara Raje and her cabinet colleagues.
Enthused by the by-poll wins in Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha constituencies and the Mandalgarh assembly (all previously held by the BJP) earlier this year, the Congress hopes to cash in what they call the anti-BJP sentiment in the state.
The Congress leaders during their campaign largely harped on local issues such as employment generation, water availability and agrarian crisis. Barring to a section of the urban intelligentsia, the controversies over the purchase of Rafale jet fighters and AgustaWestland helicopters may have made little sense to a vast majority of voters.
On its part, the Congress added a last-minute twist to the poll game by announcing the candidature of former chief minister Ashok Gehlot thereby befuddling the chief minister candidate issue, which the BJP thinks will not go well with the masses.
When asked who, between him and PCC chief Sachin Pilot, would be the chief minister, Gehlot queered the pitch further by saying, “now there are more in the running – PC Joshi, Girija Vyas, Lalchand Kataria and Rameshwar Dudi.”
The BJP is hoping that this ambiguity in the Congress camp will work out in its favour.
To counter the Congress attack on other issues, chief minister Vasundhara Raje and her ministers, rally after rally, spoke about the schemes started by the government, highlighting the Bhamashah card scheme, which promises transfer of financial and other social welfare benefits directly to women.
The possibility of the anti-incumbency sentiment also had the BJP denying tickets to 51 of its sitting legislators, including three ministers. This had not gone down well with workers. “The anger is against Raje and not the legislators. No matter what the party did with the tickets, the anger is bound to have a repercussion in the election,” said an RSS pracharak requesting anonymity.
The Rajasthan assembly elections were held along with those in Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram. This round of election is seen as a semi final before the parliamentary election next summer, when the Narendra Modi-led government will seek re-election.
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