Rajasthan elections will be BJP’s own Waterloo as voters appear to have decreed against Raaj of Raje


Now that the Karnataka assembly elections are over and the BJP has failed to form its government in the state, all eyes will be on how the saffron party performs in the last crucial assembly polls in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh before the next year’s general elections.

Photo: Hindustan Times

Before the end of this year, clearer signs will come to the fore about the major defeat the BJP might encounter in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections. There have been several claims that the party alone would not be able to cross the 140 mark in 2019 and, with many miffed allies, the magic figure of 270 would remain a distant dream.

The debate over who will ultimately win next year’s Lok Sabha polls, will continue for a while. Although I believe that the most exciting aspect of the 2019 general elections would be the rise of the current opposition, headed by a surprising leader, capable of overthrowing the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rajasthan’s assembly elections are fast approaching and the BJP already appears to have conceded defeat. The reports of rampant infighting within the party have caused considerable unrest within the already weak Vasundhara Raje government.

First, the OBC President of BJP’s Kota wing declared how unhappy he was with Raje and wrote a letter of non-cooperation to Amit Shah. Later, Gulab Chand Kataria, the Home Minister and Raje’s loyalist, was attacked by a group of BJP MLAs regarding the deteriorated law and order situation in the state. In fact, BJP MLA from Shergarh, Babu Singh Rathore, lashed out at Kataria asking the government to issue arms licence to ordinary citizens so that they could take care of their own safety.

This is very closely linked to the simmering unhappiness among the Rajput community against Raje. The community has been extremely upset about the murder of gangster Anandpal in a controversial police encounter. Anandpal was viewed as the symbol of Rajput pride, who successfully ended the terror unleashed by Jat gangsters in the state. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat was another flashpoint for the Rajputs’ anger against Raje.

Testament to the changing direction of the wind for the Raje government was the outcome of the two Lok Sabha bypolls in Alwar and Ajmer, where the ruling BJP lost both the seats to the rival Congress. The Congress win in the bypolls also highlighted that the combination of Sachin Pilot’s youthful leadership and the experience of Ashok Gehlot has finally started to pay off electorally for India’s grand old party.

BJP’s recent electoral defeats and general waning popularity can also be attributed to Raje’s failure to deliver her promises on many welfare schemes even though most of these schemes were spin-offs of the already existing schemes of the Congress government. A report by the CAG submitted in Rajasthan assembly shows how nothing has been spent on most of the welfare schemes that the Raje government launched in early 2015. Most of the water-related projects, like Jaipur-Bilaspur Water Supply Project Phase II and the Devas-3 to Rajasmand Lake Phase I, which had a total budgetary allocation of Rs 1,945 crore and Rs. 1,064 crore respectively, have not seen even a single rupee being spent on them because the government seems to have forgotten its promises of development.

The CM had promised 15 Lakh jobs to the youth in Rajasthan when she returned to power for the second time in 2013. However, this too has resulted in a failure largely because it was relying on the skill development programme. They have trained a little over 1 lakh people till date and only a handful among them have been employed. The Raje government’s much-talked-about skill development programme has caused more frustration among youth, who have degrees of some skill but no jobs. The huge numbers in which the Rajasthan youth are applying, for a few chicken-feed-worthy jobs, is a shining example of just how spectacularly the BJP government has failed on this crucial election promise.

The Raje government also faced a lot of heat about the privatisation of health and education services. This move has proved deprecating since it has further reduced the possibility of development in the area. Public-private partnership can not work in fields like healthcare and education because the government has the role of the provider of these services. With the private partnership, even such services become money-making ventures for the privates involved.

Thousands of schools have been shut down in Rajasthan in the past 4 years. This has been done under the garb of merging private and public schools with less population of students. Even though the Right to Education Act (RTE) states that there must be a primary school in the area of 1Km of each neighbourhood. Thus, RTE does not guarantee education to only those areas where there is minimum student population. The Rajasthan government has received a lot of criticism for shutting down schools which symbolically underlines the government’s stance on the need for education for the remotest of children.

The above circumstances are only compounded by the obvious anti-incumbency scare for the BJP. What remains to be seen are the margins and the dynamics of their incumbent defeat, for the public has already decreed against the Raaj of Raje in Rajasthan.

(The author is lecturer in Delhi University and author of Voter Mata Ki Jai. Views expressed here are the author’s own.)