Rajasthan: Why Cong Did Better in Urban Civic Polls, BJP in Rural
This may be because different districts voted in the two polls but there could be an interesting, macro reason too.
The results of the recently concluded Rajasthan civic polls have thrown up an interesting paradox: the Congress has performed better than the BJP in urban civic body polls and the reverse has happened in the rural polls.
This is counter intuitive as nationally, the assumption has been that the BJP is stronger in urban areas and the Congress in rural areas.
In the Nagar Palika polls, held in smaller cities, the Congress won in 619 ward, the BJP in 549 and Independents 595 out of a total of 1,775 wards.
The Congress has won a clear majority in 16 out of 50 Nagar Palikas, while the BJP got a majority in just four. In the remaining 30, either party would have to depend on Independents to take control of the Nagar Palika.
In comparison in the rural polls, the BJP won 353 out of 636 Zila Parishad member posts compared to 252 of the Congress and it won 1,989 Panchayat Samiti posts as opposed to 1,852 of the Congress.
Now, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that the BJP is misleading people on the rural poll results and pointed out that the Congress got a vote share of 40.87 percent and BJP got 40.58 percent.
However, even this should be disappointing for the Congress since the ruling party is expected to do better.
So, what explains these results in Rajasthan?
There are three reasons for this: two Rajasthan-specific reasons and one ‘big picture’ factor.
There are two Rajasthan specific reasons for the slightly divergent results in the two polls are also interrelated.
Urban and Rural Polls Were Held in Different Districts
The Nagar Palika elections were held in 50 towns spread across 12 districts: Alwar, Baran, Bharatpur, Dausa, Dholpur, Ganganagar, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Karauli, Kota, Sawai Madhopur and Sirohi.
The Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti elections were held across 21 districts: Ajmer, Banswara, Barmer, Bhilwara, Bikaner, Bundi, Chittorgarh, Churu, Dungarpur, Hanumangarh, Jaisalmer, Jalore, Jhalawar, Jhunjhunu, Nagore, Pali, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand, Sikar, Tonk and Udaipur.
Different sets of districts voted in the two elections.
None of the districts are common between the two elections so the differing results may have to do with the fact that the Congress is considered stronger in eastern parts of Rajasthan compared to western.
As many as nine out of 12 districts that voted in the Nagar Palika elections are in eastern Rajasthan.
The districts that voted in the Nagar Palika elections included the home districts of CM Ashok Gehlot (Jodhpur) and prominent ministers like Shanti Dhariwal (Kota), Parsadi Lal Meena (Dausa), Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Lal Chand Katariya (both Jaipur) and Pramod Jain Bhaya (Baran). Congress did better than the BJP in all these districts.
In both the polls, Congress has done well in most of the home districts of its senior leaders in Rajasthan, except a few like PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasra and senior minister Raghu Sharma.
Even in the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad polls, Congress did relatively well in the home districts of ministers BD Kalla (Bikaner), Saleh Mohammad (Jaisalmer) and Harish Chaudhary (Barmer).
Sachin Pilot faced mixed results as the Congress was defeated in the rural polls in Tonk, which he represents in the Assembly but did well in his previous seat Dausa in the Nagar Palika polls.
The poor performances for the Congress came in the turf of PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasra (Sikar) and ministers Raghu Sharma (Ajmer) and Udai Lal Anjana (Chittorgarh).
Weaker Presence of BTP and RLP, Higher Number of Independents
In the districts that voted in the Nagar Palika elections, Bharatiya Tribal Party and Rashtriya Loktantrik Party were comparatively weaker than in the districts that voted in the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad polls. Both the parties represent sections that have traditionally tilted towards Congress – Adivasis and Jats – and may have split some of its votes in the rural polls.
The Nagar Palika polls didn’t have the core areas of the BTP, whose presence may have harmed the Congress in the Zila Parishad polls
The BTP's core areas like Dungarpur and Banswara voted in the Zila Parishad and Panchayat Samiti polls and not in the Nagar Palika polls as is the case with some of RLP's areas of influence such as Nagaur and Barmer.
Also, the support base of the two parties is predominantly rural and was therefore more influential in Zila Parishad and Panchayat polls compared to Nagar Palika elections.
On the other hand, Independents performed particularly well in these areas, winning 595 wards, ahead of the BJP and just 24 behind the Congress. Independents may have eaten into the vote share of both the BJP and Congress and do indicate that there is space for an alternative in the state.
Now, the ‘Big Picture’ Reason
There is a possibility that the different results aren't just due to the nuances within Rajasthan and are in fact part of a national trend.
This national trend is based on survey data which shows that the popularity of the NDA is most elastic in smaller cities, compared to villages as well as big cities.
It is these smaller cities where Nagar Palika polls are held.
According to Lokniti-CSDS surveys, in May 2017, 43 percent people across small towns in India said they plan to vote for the BJP. This fell to 35 percent in January 2018 and 31 percent in May 2018 but again increased to 38 percent just before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Smaller cities are the only area where the UPA’s popularity exceeded that of the NDA at any point between 2017 and 2019, according to CSDS data.
In contrast, the NDA's popularity remained relatively stable in villages and big cities.
In villages, in May 2017, 46 percent people said they plan to vote for NDA. This fell to 41 percent in January 2018 and 37 percent in May 2018 and increased to 40 percent just before the 2019 general elections.
In big cities, in May 2017, 42 percent people said they plan to vote for NDA. This increased to 47 percent in January 2018, fell a bit to 44 percent in May 2018 and finally rose to a significant 49 percent before the 2019 polls.
Smaller cities are the only category in which the UPA managed to overtake the NDA in the 2017-2019 period. This was in May 2018, which seemed to have been the peak for the UPA and lowest ebb for the NDA. In that survey, 38 percent people said that they plan to vote for the UPA as compared to 31 percent for NDA.
So, it is quite possible that the Rajasthan Nagar Palika results may be a result of a similar ebb in NDA's popularity in smaller cities which may not be as much in rural areas.
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