Democracy is most vibrantly visible in Rajasthan. A State full of oddities. Where feudalism and progressiveness co-exist. Where democracy always win and where people enjoy politics but keep politicians on their toes. Every five years, the people of Rajasthan seem to have decided to change who will rule them. Not once in last 30 years has a ruling party ever been elected in the State. This time, Ashok Gehlot of the Congress is attempting to break this jinx. However, Rajasthan has often baffled psephologists and politicians themselves. Sunday, December 3 will be the day when the suspense will be out.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was a magician in his earlier young avatar when Indira Gandhi found an ambitious, sincere politician in him. He is known as Jadugar. However, it remains to be seen whether Gehlot can cast his magic and win Rajasthan’s loyalty again or will the people of Rajasthan cast their magic and ensure the magician’s defeat. Ashok Gehlot’s father was a magician who used to travel across India. Ashok Gehlot was interested in social work and was spotted by Indira Gandhi during the West Bengal famine in 1971. Gehlot has been associated with the Congress since then. He has a son Vaibhav who is a politician and a daughter Sonia who is an architect and interior designer settled in Mumbai. Ashok Gehlot belongs to the Mali community which is considered backward. Gehlot has been alleged of favouring his son Vaibhav and daughter Sonia in real estate and hotel deals. Gehlot has denied these allegations by BJP.
Electoral Arithmetic of Rajasthan
There are 200 Assembly seats in Rajasthan and a minimum of 101 seats are required to form a majority government. This time elections were held on 199 seats as one Congress candidate died during the election process.
In the 15th assembly election in 2018, the Congress won 100 seats and Ashok Gehlot became the Chief Minister for the third time. However, the BJP still won 73 seats. The BSP won 6 seats, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) won 2 seats, the RLP won 3 seats, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) won 2 seats, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won 1 seat, and Independents won 13 seats.
The key players in Rajasthan are the BJP and the Congress. Key leaders include Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and CP Joshi of the Congress besides Vasundhara Raje, Satish Poonia, Chandra Prakash(CP) Joshi and Om Birla.
While Congress is pitching on its welfare schemes, policies and guarantees under the Ashok Gehlot government, BJP is banking on polarisation along with accusations of appeasement politics, Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal murder and riots under Gehlot government, invitations to Ram temple, as well as issues of law and order, crimes against women, corruption and State Public Service examination paper leaks. Hindutva is a major issue in these elections.
Demographics of Rajasthan
Besides BJP and Congress, almost all other national parties are active in Rajasthan. This includes Aam Aadmi Party, AIMIM, BTP, BAP and others. The last two parties are focused on tribal votes which form about 28% of the population. Out of this, nearly 14% belong to the Meena tribe. Jats are about 15%, Scheduled Caste about 18% , Gurjars and Rajputs about 9.5% each and Brahmins being about 12% of the population. Rajasthan, which areawise is the biggest State of India also has the highest Jain population of India. Over 88.55 population is that of Hindus in Rajasthan followed by 9.07% Muslims and 1.27% Sikhs.
Rajasthani Rivaaz of not repeating a Government
This tradition of evicting incumbents began in 1977 in Rajasthan when Janata Party swept out the Congress winning 151 of the 200 seats leaving Congress with just 41 seats. Congress swept out by the Janata Party storm.
Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the leader of the Janata Party, became the Chief Minister. He later joined the BJP when it was founded. Indira Gandhi dismissed Bhairon Singh Shekhavat’s government in1980. He is the only non Congress Chief Minister to have ruled Rajasthan thrice.
In the elections that followed dismissal of Shekavat Government, the Congress came back to power with 133 seats. In its earlier avatar of Bhartiya Jana Sangh (BJS) which was powerful in Rajasthan, the newly formed BJP won 32 seats in the 1980 elections. BJP was just a month old party then. The Congress won the elections in 1985 too. It was after this that the “rivaaz” to not repeat the ruling party started in Rajasthan.
In 1990, the BJP won 85 seats and formed a government with the Janata Dal which had won 55 seats. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat again became the Chief Minister. The Congress won just 50 seats then. Rajasthan saw Assembly elections prematurely in 1993 which the BJP won.
Later, Congress seized power from the BJP in 1998 winning 153 of the 200 seats. Ashok Gehlot became the Chief Minister for the first time.
Since 1985, Rajasthan has not voted the party that ruled them during the five year period. As Satish Poonia of BJP told Vibes of India, Rajasthan always prefers to change who rules them every five years.
Last two assembly elections
In the 14th assembly elections in 2013, BJP came to power with 163 seats. The Congress was reduced to a mere 21 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won 2 seats and Independents won 7 seats. Vasundhara Raje who belongs to the Scindia clan of Madhya Pradesh became the first woman chief minister of Rajasthan.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been winning Sardarpura consecutively since 1998. This seat has been a stronghold of the Congress for more than two decades. The Congress veteran defeated BJP’s Sambhoo Singh by 63% of the votes in 2018. Gehlot is contesting from Sardarpura against BJP’s Mahendra Singh Rathore this time.
Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is contesting from Tonk, which is considered to be his stronghold. He has been winning this seat since 2008. Pilot is facing a challenge from BJP’s Ajit Singh Meena. It must be mentioned here that Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot have not been on the best of the terms. Their spats have often been public. However, this election season, their electoral unity had become a talk in Rajasthan. Several Rajasthanis believe that Sachin Pilot should be made the Chief Minister if Congress wins these 2023 Assembly elections. Ashok Gehlot should be given a meaty central role.
Jhalrapatan is also an important seat in Rajasthan. Former CM Vasundhara Raje has been popular in Jhalrapatan since 2003. The Congress candidate lost to Raje in the 2018 election. Vasundhara Raje got 54% of the votes.
In Nathdwara, the BJP has fielded Vishvaraj Singh Mewar, a descendant of Maharana Pratap Singh. Mewar is contesting against Congress veteran CP Joshi, the current Speaker of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. In 2018, Joshi defeated BJP’s Mahesh Pratap Singh by a margin of 16,940 votes.
In this constituency of Rajasthan, Congress’s Brijendra Ola has been elected continuously for three terms (in 2008, 2013, and 2018). Ola is contesting against BJP’s Nishit Kumar. Ola won the 2018 election by 76,177 votes.
In 2018, Congress candidate Lalchand Kataria defeated BJP’s Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore to become an MLA. Rathore is an Olympian turned politician who is again contesting against Congress’s Abhishek Chaudhary to regain the seat.
BJP’s Rajendra Rathore has a strong hold in this constituency and is also the Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly. Rathore has won the seat six times in the past. This year however, Rathore has been replaced by Harlal Saharan. Rathore has been given a ticket from Taranagar. Congress has given its’ ticket to Rafique Mandeliya.
Udaipur is a stronghold of BJP as the saffron party has been consistently winning this seat since 2003. This time BJP has fielded Tarachand Jain from Udaipur. His nomination saw protests from within the Udaipur BJP. Tarachand however will be giving a strong fight to Congress’
Gaurav Vallabh. Gaurav Vallabh is known for his insights on Indian economy besides being a young face from the Congress..