Lok Sabha elections 2019: After 2018 defeat in Rajasthan, the second coming

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the national polls, winning each of the 25 seats it contested in Rajasthan in a repeat of its performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It marks a turnaround since the BJP lost power in December to Congress in the state that sends 25 lawmakers to Parliament.

BJP strategists say the party has benefitted from its proactive campaign in the state, where it began preparing for the national polls in August after sensing an anti-incumbency sentiment against then chief minister Vasundhara Raje. The slogan “Vasundhara teri khar nahin, Modi tumse bair nahin [we have no malice towards you, Modi, but will not spare Vasundhara]” summed up the mood in the state in the run-up to the assembly polls.

The strategists say BJP chief Amit Shah factored in the mood in the state when he made Union minister Prakash Javadekar the party’s Rajasthan in-charge while keeping the focus on the national elections even after losing power.

The BJP particularly focussed on over two million beneficiaries of the Centre’s welfare schemes it had identified in the state and deputed its workers to visit them on a weekly basis.

A state BJP leader said every voter was factored in and the party’s organisational structure was strengthened at the booth level, particularly in places where the party did not do well in the 2018 assembly elections.

BJP functionaries said party workers were asked to deliver a clear message to the people that their votes were for Prime Minister Narendra Modi rather than the local candidates. It clicked, they said.

Modi addressed as many as eight election rallies in Rajasthan and helped create a sentiment in favour of the BJP’s main pitch of nationalism and security, particularly crucial in a state that shares a long border with Pakistan.

“Our preparations for the assembly elections helped in the Lok Sabha polls. But Modi provided the boost,” said Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat, who defeated chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son, Vaibhav Gehlot, in Jodhpur.

The BJP not only swept the polls but also increased its vote in 2019 share to 58.4% from 54.9% in 2014.

The Congress failed to consolidate its position despite winning the assembly elections in December 2018 contrary to the state’s decades-old trend of the ruling party getting a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha seat there.

It appeared to be slow in implementing its poll promise of waiving farm loans. Infighting also seems to have hurt the Congress’s prospects. Congress functionaries blamed the infighting for a delay in ticket distribution for the national polls. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot also ended up devoting most of his time in Jodhpur to campaign for his son.

The Congress’s organisational structure, too, proved to be inadequate as there were reports of absence of the party’s workers on the ground. It was left to the candidates to manage booths at many places, a functionary said.

As many as 12 Congress candidates lodged complaints with the party alleging that senior party leaders were not working for them. “It appeared that we were not contesting to win but to save the skin of some leaders,” said a state Congress leader on condition of anonymity.

State BJP chief Madanlal Saini called BJP’s victory historic and said it was for the first time that the ruling Congress had got such a drubbing in the state.

Raje credited the Prime Minister for the victory. “This is not a wave or a tsunami, this is magic of NaMo [Narendra Modi],” she said as she joined celebrations at the BJP’s state headquarters.

First Published:
May 24, 2019 06:10 IST

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