As election dates have been announced, and hectic parleys begin in both Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the latest CVoter survey shows that riwaz will be maintained and BJP is likely to win the state of Rajasthan. Even Rahul Gandhi earlier had not sounded confident about victory in the desert state.
So why is the BJP placed ahead despite factionalism in the state unit and not declaring Vasundhara Raju as its Chief Ministerial candidate?
The state exhibits a strong trend of throwing out incumbent governments over the past three decades. When such a trend exists there is usually a solid reason behind it like "change is better for development”.
Three states exhibited a similar trend: Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. All of them have managed to put a stop to the revolving door mechanism, but there needs to be a strong reason, which is missing in Rajasthan.
High Number of Swing Seats
There are 52 swing seats in the state which mimic a pendulum – party A to party B to party A again in the last three polls since delimitation.
Congress holds 47 of these seats and 44 of them are INC -BJP - INC seats. As per the trend, Congress could lose a bulk of these seats and this alone could propel the BJP to victory.
INC Has Lesser Strong Seats
There are 28 seats which BJP has won three out of three times in the last three elections, these can be considered as stronghold seats of the party. On the other hand, there are just 5 such seats for the Congress.
There are 54 seats which Congress has not won even once in the last three polls, these are weak seats of the party. BJP has only 19 such seats. The Congress has less number of strong and high number of weak seats compared to the BJP and in a tight battle, it could create problems for the party.
One of the reasons why there is a revolving door mechanism is the fact that Rajasthan witnesses a very localised contest, there is very little voting on CM face (only 4% in 2018 as per CSDS post-poll study).
This will help the BJP to exploit local-level anti-incumbency against the Congress MLAs. The riwaz also makes some MLAs resign to the fate they are going to lose whatever good they do, resulting in non-performance.
Opposition MLA can give the excuse that his/her party is not in power and hence, wasn’t able to perform, but this can’t hold good for an MLA belonging to the ruling party.
Since there is very low voting on the CM face (4%), the impact of not announcing Vasundhara Raje as its face is mitigated to some extent for the BJP.
2 out of 5 Regions – BJP Strongholds
Out of the five regions – Mewar, Marwad, Dhundhar, Shekhawati, and Harouti – the BJP is strong in two regions. The BJP was ahead of the Congress in Harouti (Vasundhara region) and Mewar representing 60 seats even in 2018 when it lost elections.
Two other regions – Shekhawati and Dhundhar flip in line with the trend and vote for alternate parties. They had backed the Congress in 2018 and now is the turn of the BJP, these regions have 79 seats.
Rout in Dhundhar was one of the reasons for the BJP's loss in 2018, it barely won 10/58 seats. That’s why it has put up 4 of the 7 MPs declared so far from this region to propel its prospects.
As per India Today-Axis My India exit poll for 2019, only 31% of voters have always voted for the same party in each election at the national level. In Rajasthan, this number is very high at close to 50%.
The BJP also has a very strong organisation base. In fact, it is the first state where a BJP government was instituted in India in 1990 in the aftermath of the Ram Mandir movement.
High Popularity of PM
In Rajasthan, PM Modi is very popular. The net satisfaction of PM Modi in the state stood at 32% just ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections — third highest in India. Critics could argue the Modi factor didn’t bail out the BJP in 2018 then how it could now.
In 2018, the BJP was in power and hence, people couldn’t ignore the performance of the state government. In 2023, the BJP is in opposition and it's gone ahead with its tried and tested model of not announcing a CM face and seeking votes in the name of Modi.
Risks to BJP’s Comeback Plan
The party is facing rebellion in many seats from its first list of announced 41 candidates. It needs to manage rebellion as it could contest the independent and dent party’s prospects. Local candidates are fairly important as we have seen above in an election.
The party needs to be wary of sabotage by Vasundhara as some of her supporters have been denied tickets. If she secretly asks Rajput and women supporters to abstain from voting it could create problems for the party.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)