Raje sitting pretty for Mission 25

Raje sitting pretty for Mission 25

Rajasthan is one of the five BJP-ruled states that leaders expect will contribute significantly to the party’s “Mission 272” plus to instal the  Narendra Modi government at Raisina Hill.

Less than four months ago,  Vasundhara Raje secured more than three-fourths majority by winning 163 out of 200 Assembly seats. Emboldened by the sweeping mandate, Raje has fixed her own target of  “Mission 25” to win all the LS seats.

The desert state will vote in two phases with the bulk of constituencies, including Mewar and Marwar regions, figuring in the first round on April 17 and remaining a week later.

The rout of the Congress was an accumulation of the twin anti-incumbencies – of the UPA-II government and against the Ashok Gehlot administration as well – built on price rise, infighting among the top leadership and widely reported assault on women by state Congress leaders and ministers.

The mood against the Congress was so intense that voters ignored some of the effective pro-poor schemes of the Gehlot government like distribution of free medicines and pension to elders.

In the landslide victory, Congress candidates coming under Ajmer Lok Sabha seat, represented by Pilot, were swept away. The shocking part was that of Naseem Akhtar, who lost to BJP's Suresh Kumar Rawat in minority-dominated Pushkar by over 40,000 votes.

Raje might have got minority votes  as the Gehlot government had failed to contain communal clashes in Bharatpur and other places, but she is unlikely to get similar support  as the BJP is projecting Modi as its PM candidate.

In the last 16 years, the BJP and the Congress have been taking turns every alternate polls to outdo each other in LS elections.  However, the 2009 elections saw the worst-ever show of the BJP in recent times, with a tally of just four and Congress romping home with 20 seats.

The poll surveys are projecting a repeat of Assembly verdict, riding on Narenda Modi’s popularity. For instance, NDTV gave 19 seats to the BJP. The Congress camp is also not very confident, as a leader conceded that their internal survey had thrown up a depressing forecast.

Perhaps, the biggest challenge for the Congress is to revive its support base it lost in the last Assembly polls that was spread across caste and regions. In the last 2009 general elections, the  Congress had won five reserved seats --three SC and two ST-- while the BJP could net only one dalit majority constituency.  Now, both the parties are vying to woo sizeable Jats, who are traditional  rivals of Rajput community in the power struggle of feudal society of Rajasthan.

While the Congress believes that putting Jats in the Centre’s OBC list will be viewed favourably by the community, Raje, herself a bahu of Dholpur Jat royalty, has fielded 7 candidates from the same powerful caste. Besides, the party is also quietly spreading Modi’s humble “chaiwallah” beginning traced to an OBC family of Gujarat.

Modi has also put his might to lure Jats as the first public meeting he addressed in the state last Monday was in Jayal, which falls in Nagaur constituency and is represented by Jyoti Mridha of the Congress.

The Jats have influence in around 130 Assembly seats spread across more than three states of Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

But, the ouster of BJP veteran leader Jaswant Singh  after he rebelled to contest from his family seat of Barmer having been denied party ticket is being encashed by the Congress to portray that Rajputs are being victimised in the right wing party.    BJP leaders believe it will not make much of an impact barring Barmer, where the party has fielded Jat candidate Col Sonaram Chaudhary.

Singh, having shifted from Darjeeling seat, was denied ticket primarily due to the opposition from Raje, who retaliated for the previous attempts by the former union minister to stifle her since AB Vajpayee regime days. She virtually humiliated him by not only inducting his rival from the Congress but also ensuring that Chaudhary contests against him.

The CM is also believed to have not agreed for renomination of another challenger Subhash Maharia. The three-time Sikar MP and former union minister comes from a clout-wielding local political family as his brother Nand Kishore is an independent MLA from Fatehpur. Maharia is pitted against Swami Sumedanand of the BJP.

Interestingly, both are seeking votes to make Modi the PM. Maharia argues that  he is contesting to add to the BJP count as  Swami  has little chance to win being an outsider.

Political analysts believe that there will be interesting contests in less than a dozen seats such as Barmer, Jaipur-Rural, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bharatpur, Jaipur, Dasua, Tonk-Sawaimadhopur, Jalore, Nagaur, Jhunjhunu, Jalore and Sikar.

Ironically, only in Dausa ST seat, a member of a family will be loser irrespective of whoever wins as Union Minister of State for Finance Namo Narayan Meena is pitted against his younger brother and former DGP H C Meena of the BJP. Sitting MP and National People's Party state convener Kirorilal Meena is also in the fray but he is believed to have lost his clout among the Meena community.

Minister of State for defence Jitendra Singh is contesting to retain his Alwar constituency. He is one of at least four candidates from royal families in the fray, including sitting Congress MPs Chandresh Kumari Katoch from Jodhpur and Ijayaraj Singh from Kota.

Other than that Tonk-Sawai Madhopur is witnessing contest between outsiders – Congress candidate and former cricketer Azharuddin will battle it out against BJP Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria.

Similarly, Rahul Gandhi’s confidant C P Joshi shifted from his winning Bhilwara segment to Jaipur-Rural to try his luck against Olympic shooter Rajyvardhan Singh Rathore from the BJP.

Related Stories:

Prestige of many leaders at stake