An ‘Insecure’ BJP Fields Modi, Shah for Rajasthan Bypolls Campaign
While Congress’ campaign list has state leaders like Sachin Pilot, BJP’s list includes big names.
Battle lines have been drawn with the BJP and the Congress announcing their list of star campaigners for the 29 January Rajasthan bypolls, for two Lok Sabha seats and one Assembly seat.
While the Congress list mostly includes state leaders like the Rajasthan unit President Sachin Pilot, ex-Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, National General Secretary Avinash Pande among others. The BJP’s list ‘boasts’ of national figures including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP National President Amit Shah, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
It is indeed quite surprising that the PM has been listed as a star campaigner for the bypolls. Usually in bypolls, it is the state leadership and not the top leadership of a national party that takes up the responsibility of campaigning.
PM will always be our star campaigner… We in the BJP take every election very seriously.BJP functionary to The Quint
An Insecure BJP
So, is it the fear of anti-incumbency, or desperation, or a mere lack of confidence that has prompted the BJP to include the names of top leaders as campaigners?
Political pundits concur that the BJP does not want to take a chance after what happened in the Gujarat polls recently, in which the Congress had put up a tough fight. Secondly, the four-year-old Vasundhara Raje government is facing anti-incumbency, and its popularity is at its lowest right now.
Moreover, the public’s confidence in the government has diminished after the implementation of GST and demonetisation, with anger brewing especially among traders and farmers. Farmers have been agitating against lack of formal loan waivers, and the consequent suicides in the community.
Over and above this, the BJP is also facing the wrath of the Rajput community over the ‘encounter’ killing of gangster Anandpal and the renaming of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s controversial film ‘Padmavati’ to ‘Padmaavat’.
Only a few days ago, Rajput leaders openly announced their support to the Congress in the bypolls.
Leaders from Rajput Sabha, Ravna Rajput Sangarsh Samiti, Rajput Karni Sena, Ravna Rajput Sabha and the Pratap Foundation among others, have complained that the BJP has betrayed their trust in handling the Anandpal encounter case and the Bollywood film ‘Padmavat’.
Congress Says Raje Govt Has Lost Credibility
If the Prime Minister comes to campaign in the by-elections, it will be unprecedented. It clearly shows a lack of confidence in the Raje government by the central leadership.Sachin Pilot, Congress state president in Rajasthan to The Quint
According to Pilot, the Raje government has lost all credibility. With an aim to cash in on the PM’s credibility and outreach, the state government has invited him twice to visit Rajasthan before the bypolls.
On Tuesday, 16 January, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the commencement of work for the Rajasthan Refinery at Pachpadra in Barmer district and addressed a rally. Modi’s second visit to the state is likely to be in Jhunjhunu, a city near Jaipur, around 22 January tentatively.
A Congress functionary opined that both these tours had been organised by the BJP to influence the bypolls. PM Modi’s attendance at the oil refinery’s inauguration in Barmer on Tuesday was viewed by former chief minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, as a breach of the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) Model Code of Conduct, and to this extent, he has put in a request with the ECI to look into the matter, as reported by PTI.
The same report mentioned Gehlot as also having accused the BJP of misusing government machinery for the Rajasthan bypolls.
A High-Octane Political Battle
The high stakes Lok Sabha seats where the bypolls are to be held are Alwar and Ajmer. The bypolls are being held here following the death of BJP MPs Sanwar Lal Jat from Ajmer and Chand Nath from Alwar.
Political analysts view it as a sort of ‘semi finals’ before the state Assembly polls due in November or December, and the subsequent Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
Ramswaroop Lamba, son of former Union minister Sanwar Lal Jat, is the BJP’s Ajmer candidate, and Dr Jaswant Singh Yadav, a minister in the Vasundhara Raje Cabinet is its candidate from Alwar. Raghu Sharma, an ex-MLA from Kekri, is the Congress’ Ajmer representative, and Dr Karan Singh Yadav, a former MP, is the party’s Alwar candidate.
As of now, local leaders from both the contesting parties have hit the campaign trail. Sachin Pilot is travelling hundreds of kilometres every other day to campaign for the Congress, while ministers from the Vasundhara Raje Cabinet have been deputed in all three constituencies to woo voters.
(The writer is a Jaipur-based senior journalist and political analyst. He can be reached @anilsharma45. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)
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