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BJP Wins Rajasthan: Hindutva to Anti-Incumbency, 5 Key Takeaways From the Result

From not declaring a CM face to a Hindutva-based pitch, here's what worked and what didn't for the BJP in Rajasthan.

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Contrary to exit poll predictions, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday, 3 December registered a comfortable victory in the Rajasthan Assembly elections.

Winning 115 out of 200 Assembly seats, the party pushed Congress to a distant second.

From campaigning on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, attempts to saffronise the elections, and cashing on anti-incumbency in the state, here's what worked for the BJP and what didn't:

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Historical Trend of Voting Out Incumbents

Rajasthan has for over three decades followed the revolving door pattern of voting, which means that the incumbent party is voted out each time the state goes to polls. In line with the trend, with Congress having won the 2018 Assembly elections, it was predicted that the BJP will win this one.

Additionally, the Congress' term was tainted with paper leak scams, infighting between the Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot camps, high rate of crimes against women, and minority caste and religious groups.

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BJP's Hindutva Pitch

The BJP's campaign was tailored around the party's overall Hindutva pitch. They gave tickets to Hindutva leaders such as Bal Mukund Acharya from Jaipur's Hawa Mahal constituency and Baba Balaknath from Tijara in Alwar.

Despite not being a party member, Acharya was given a ticket over several heavyweights. His claim to the ticket was a campaign he started for the upkeep of Hindu temples in Jaipur which he claimed were in ruins due to "appeasement" politics.

Balaknath, a saffron-clad seer who is also known as the 'Yogi of Rajasthan' is being seen as a front-runner for the CM post over career politicians such as Vasundhara Raje and Rajendra Rathore.

In Tijara, Balaknath's constituency, the BJP led one of the most communal campaigns across the state. During one of his poll speeches, Balaknath compared BJP and Congress with India and Pakistan, "Match Pakistan ke saath jeetna hai ki nahi? (Don't we have to win the match against Pakistan?)" he asked his supporters.

The BJP also rallied voters against the Gehlot government by repeatedly highlighting cases such as the murder of Udaipur-based tailor Kanhaiya Lal by two Muslim men over his alleged support for former BJP leader Nupur Sharma's controversial remark against the Prophet.

Maybe due to the BJP's shrill Hindutva campaign, Muslims may have consolidated behind the Congress.

According to data by India Today-My Axis exit poll, Muslims seem to have consolidated behind the Congress, that is, 83 percent as compared to 62 percent as per CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) in 2018 (+21 percent). There are 21 seats which have significant minority influence.

This shows that significant vote consolidation could likely have happened along religious lines.

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Caste Consolidation

Despite an overall rise in crimes against caste minorities, exit poll data predicted a significant consolidation of Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) votes in favour of the Congress party whereas the BJP had an edge in the General category. As per Axis My India data, BJP got 62 percent General category votes over Congress' 22 percent.

In Jalore constituency, however, BJP's Jogeshwar Garg is leading with over 15,000 votes. This is the constituency where death of Indra Meghwal, a nine-year-old who was assaulted by his school teacher after he touched a pot of water designated for “upper castes”, led to massive outrage.

According to data from the Rajasthan police, 56,879 cases were registered between 2017 and 2023 under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Crimes against Dalits and Adivasis have increased at an average rate of 22 percent from 2018 to 2022. 

The survey also predicted that the Jat and Gujjar vote has moved to the BJP. This despite Sachin Pilot being one of the most popular Gujjar leaders in the state.

The BJP, as per the survey, also has an edge among the OBC voters despite Congress' pitch for a Bihar-like caste survey.

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Modi-Led Campaign

The BJP, in the run-up to the polls, did not project a chief ministerial face in Rajasthan. This also led to reports of infighting between the party high-command and former CM Vasundhara Raje.

Several Raje loyalists such as Yoonus Khan also fought election as Independents after being denied tickets by the party.

Interestingly, the BJP's seat tally is down from 163 in 2013 to 113 in 2023. The party's last win in the state was much huger.

This can largely be attributed to confusion among the cadre and voters till last minute about the party's CM choice.

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Gehlot's Welfare Schemes

The Congress' better than expected performance came on the back of social security schemes launched by CM Ashok Gehlot. These include the Chiranjeevi Yojana, a state-sponsored health insurance scheme up to Rs 25 lakh that covers most complex ailments and treatments.

Additionally, schemes like increasing minimum wages, old age pension, subsidy in LPG cylinders, and scholarships, focused on providing long-term relief to people, contrary to cash hand-outs given by previous state governments.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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