‘Some have good ties with Ashok Gehlot and some others with Vasundhara Raje’.
The buzz within political corridors is that if the Congress or the BJP falls short of a majority in Rajasthan, the candidates who are contesting independently (some of which are loyal to the current Chief Minster Ashok Gehlot and some to ex-CM Vasundhara Raje) can together come to the rescue of Congress or BJP to form the government, only under the leadership of Gehlot or Raje respectively. A party insider said, “If Congress is short of majority, independents who are loyal to Gehlot are going to support him just like the last Assembly elections. Moreover, loyalists of Raje who have contested independently and won will also support Gehlot in such a case. And it is going to happen vice versa. If BJP falls short of majority, Raje will also get the support of independents who are loyal to Gehlot. By this, they can defend themselves from their respective parties who want to dethrone them. Subsequently, this will protect them and they can be in power.”
Last time as well, one crucial factor that gave Ashok Gehlot a clear edge over his rival Sachin Pilot, who had a significant role in ticket distribution in the state, was the support of at least 10 of the 13 MLAs who were elected as Independents. A chunk of these independent MLAs were former Congress leaders who were denied tickets by the party state unit (led by Pilot) to make way for young leaders. And those 10 Independents had proved crucial in winning Ashok Gehlot the chief minister’s chair in 2018 versus Sachin Pilot.
Moreover, independents in the last elections had polled around 10% vote share establishing their share as an important electoral chunk capable of disturbing the calculations of Congress and BJP. Rajasthan BJP state unit Vice President Baba Balaknath however refused independents to have any impact in the state.
He said, “They will have no impact. Yes, there may be around a dozen who have rebelled, but everyone is going to lose. It may be that one or two will win, but all others are going to lose.”
An analyst in Rajasthan said, “There were initially more than 20 rebels from both Congress and BJP each, but both the parties have been successful in convincing a considerable chunk of leaders to withdraw their nominations. However, the remaining rebels have a good connect with the grassroots and some have good relationship with Ashok Gehlot and some others have good relationship with Vasundhara Raje.”
He added, “They will play an important role in case they win and there is no clear majority for either of the parties. Yet there are others who can play a spoilsport.
For example, Ravindra Singh Bhati announced his candidacy for the Sheo Assembly seat in Barmer district and this could hurt the BJP. The constituency is noteworthy for its substantial Muslim voter base. The constituency has approximately 3 lakh voters, and was won by Ameen Khan of the Congress in 2018, by defeating Khangar Singh Soda of the BJP.”
There are around 20 strong independent candidates who are vying to win against both the major national parties Congress and BJP on their respective seats. Out of these, political analysts suggest, there are around 12 candidates who can be victorious.