Congress Is Optimistic About Second Phase Of Rajasthan LS Polls 

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Congress Is Optimistic About Second Phase Of Rajasthan LS Polls 

| Updated: April 26, 2024 12:26

Caste politics has dominated over national issues in some of the 13 seats that go to the polls on Friday

As Rajasthan goes to the polls for 13 seats on Friday, wrapping up the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress seems confident and optimistic. In 2014 and 2019, the BJP and the NDA led by it, won all 25 seats in Rajasthan.

In the two phases of voting in the state, the BJP seems to be facing a challenge in at least half the seats each, though not entirely from the Congress. Unlike the last two times when voting was largely in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as the BJP’s core issues of nationalism and Ram Temple, this time, caste politics has emerged as a major factor in some seats.

The first phase’s drop in polling is believed to have the BJP worried. However, the BJP’s campaign that the Congress’s social justice stand was another means to “take people’s money” has left the Opposition rattled. The key constituencies in the second phase are Barmer-Jaisalmer, Banswara, Jalore, Kota, Jodhpur and Tonk.

Nothing to lose

Overall, the Congress is optimistic as it has nothing to lose, while BJP leaders seem a bit apprehensive given the target set by Modi of “400 paar (beyond 400)” seats across the country. Both of Modi’s polarising speeches where he attacked the Congress while referring to Muslims came in Rajasthan – in Banswara and Tonk.

The Congress might fall short on the organisation front and its alliance position is not strong. While it is officially supporting the Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) in Banswara, the Congress also has a candidate in the fray who did not withdraw.  Owing to alleged delay from the Congress in making up its mind, the BAP has fielded candidates in Chittorgarh and Udaipur where the Congress is contesting.

Top leaders missing

The Congress might sorely miss its top leaders such as Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and Govind Singh Dotasra. They reportedly did not want to take the risk to contest. Their presence could have energised the workers.

The Congress’s uncertainty about Rajasthan was also reflected in the fact that none of its top leaders – Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi or Priyanka – held a rally in the state in the second phase. In the first phase though, Sonia Gandhi made an appearance in her only rally so far. 

Of the 13 contests, the toughest one for the BJP seems to be in Barmer, where incumbent Union minister Kailash Choudhary is pitted against Independent Ravindra Bhati and the Congress’s Ummeda Ram Beniwal. Rajputs and some other groups are backing Bhati while Jats seem to be rallying behind Beniwal and Choudhary, with Beniwal having more support. 

Stakes are high

In Jalore, the stakes are high for the Congress as former CM Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav is fighting against Lumbaram Choudhary of the BJP. Gehlot Senior has been aggressively campaigning for Vaibhav, who lost in 2019.

In Jodhpur, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the BJP’s strongest Rajput face from Rajasthan now, is contesting against Karan Singh Uchiyarda, from the same community. Shekhawat is facing questions over drinking water problems in rural parts of the constituency despite him being the Union Jal Shakti Minister.

In Kota, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla is facing anti-incumbency and accusations of being “inaccessible”, while BJP rebel-turned-Congress candidate Prahlad Gunjal is posing a challenge. Birla benefits from his strong hold over the region, the party’s good management, as well as the impression that he is close to PM Modi.

Stiff contest

Tonk-Sawai Madhopur is witnessing a stiff contest between sitting BJP MP Sukhbir Singh Jaunapuria and the Congress’s Harish Chandra Meena, who is the sitting MLA from Deoli Uniara Assembly and seen as close to Pilot, the MLA from Tonk. With the seat having a substantial number of Muslims, the BJP is hoping that the Hindus will continue to stick to the party.

BJP state president C P Joshi looks comfortably placed in Chittorgarh, as does P P Chaudhary in Pali and Dushyant Singh in Jhalawar Baran, the stronghold of his family from where his mother and former CM Vasundhara Raje is also an MLA. In Mewar’s Udaipur and Rajsamand, the BJP is banking on the RSS and its strong cadre to win. 

In Ajmer, it is Jat vs Jat. The Jats here seem to be leaning towards the BJP’s Bhagirath Choudhary. Bhilwara remains one of those seats where the candidate seems to matter little to voters and the narrative is concentrated on PM Modi and BJP’s policies. Hence, the BJP’s Subhash Chandra Baheria, a one-time MLA and three-term MP, looks comfortable against the Congress’s C P Joshi, the former Assembly Speaker.

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