Rajasthan Polls: ‘Headless’ BJP Watches as Pilot Flies Cong Plane
Image of current Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and the Congress party symbol used for representational purposes.
Image of current Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and the Congress party symbol used for representational purposes.(Photo: Erum Gour/The Quint)

Rajasthan Polls: ‘Headless’ BJP Watches as Pilot Flies Cong Plane

In the run-up to the Rajasthan legislative assembly elections this year, the Congress has gone all out to woo voters while the ruling party in the state and Centre, the BJP, seems to be lagging behind in its mass connect programme.

Despite abnormally high temperatures across Rajasthan, the state president of the Congress and its youth leader Sachin Pilot have travelled over 6 lakh kilometres in the last four and a half years.

The majority of his travels have been within the last few months. Pilot is expected to cover over 20 of the 33 districts under Congress’ ‘Mera Booth-Mera Gaurav’ programme. Sachin Pilot has travelled across the state with an aim to boost the morale of party workers which was shattered after the Congress suffered its worst defeat in the 2013 assembly elections followed by the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Also Read : BJP Not An Election-Winning Machine: Sachin Pilot to The Quint

Sachin ‘Pilots’ Congress Campaign

Whether it’s the ‘Matka Phod’ programme which protested against water shortage in Jaipur, or the agitation against fuel prices, or attending ‘Mera Booth-Mera Gaurav’, the Congress’ Rajasthan president is really sweating it out, travelling hundreds of kilometres daily.

Sachin Pilot’s main aim is to bring the Congress back to power in Rajasthan. Though the Congress suffered drawbacks of infighting and factionalism, Avinash Pande, the Rajasthan in-charge for the party, with his political acumen has so far been able to keep the flock together.

This was visible during the recently held bypolls for two Lok Sabha seats and one Assembly seat, in which Congress emerged the winner. All the four senior leaders, namely, former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan State President of Congress, Sachin Pilot, Senior Congress Leader C P Joshi, and Bhanwar Jitendra Singh (who was a former minister in Manmohan Singh’s Cabinet and a close aide of Rahul Gandhi), have campaigned unitedly.

Pilot has received a positive response wherever he has campaigned, and it is mainly due to his efforts that party cadres and workers have seen revived morale.

His main aim was to strengthen booth management, which he has successfully been able to implement.

Congress has devised various strategies for the forthcoming polls including undertaking door-to-door canvassing in Rajasthan. BJP, in the 2013 assembly elections in Rajasthan, got over 45 percent vote share, while Congress received a little over 33 percent. Even Rahul Gandhi is likely to visit Rajasthan by the end of June or in July, sources in the Congress party said.

“All the party leaders including our Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot, and Avinash Pande are working hard to bring the party back to power in the state. We are sure that under the guidance of Pilot ji, Pande ji , Gehlot ji and Joshi ji, we will be in power again,” Archana Sharma, Media Chairperson of Congress in Rajasthan said.

Also Read : Rajasthan Bypolls: ‘Double Anti-Incumbency’ at Play Against BJP

BJP Late to the Party

BJP, on the other hand, has just started its exercise. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is holding a ‘Jansamvad’ sort of public address in some cities. Raje faced criticism for not meeting many of the party workers, journalists and general populace before this programme.

While Raje’s Cabinet members are busy touring constituencies, they are only focusing on areas from where they plan to contest the upcoming election. Raje is banking on what she calls the ‘development work’ that she has undertaken in the state. She recently asked party functionaries and workers to travel across the state and propagate development goals and programmes undertaken by her government.

However, the differences between Raje and the central leadership is a matter of concern. Since Raje’s close aide Ashok Parnami’s resignation from the post of State President of Rajasthan’s BJP unit in mid-April, the party has not been able to find a replacement, which clearly does not augur well.

A ‘Headless’ Party

The BJP has been a leaderless party for the last two months and it is certainly sending wrong signals to the party workers affecting their morale. The BJP needs to do damage control in this direction immediately.

Speaking about the party being criticised for being leaderless in Rajasthan for so long, a BJP functionary said on condition of anonymity, “This is only Congress propaganda. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Rajasthan a couple of times in the last few months and our National President Amit Shah also spent a few days in Jaipur last year and spoke highly of our Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. It is taking time to take a decision on the party president because we first had the Karnataka polls, after which the PM was travelling, but very soon we will see a new party president in the state.”

Amit Shah is likely to stay in Jaipur for the next few months till assembly elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. However, if Shah spends too much time in Jaipur, it will harm BJP as there will be two power centres: one controlled by Raje and other by Shah.

“We are confident that we will form the government again,” a BJP functionary said adding that it would be under Raje’s leadership.

Whatever be the outcome of the polls, one thing is for sure: the Congress will be the first to touch the voter base in Rajasthan.

Also Read : Breaking Views: Rajasthan Bypoll Results Are a Warning for the BJP

(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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