Days before the Assembly elections of Rajasthan, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party may project unity in their “houses”. However, the clear lack of enthusiasm of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot in BJP and Congress respectively could affect both the parties electorally.
The point to be reckoned, according to party insiders, is that Pilot had not pushed to seek enough seats during the seat distribution by the party leadership which indicates that he is not anticipating better performance by Congress in terms of electoral gains. “Had the elections been a cake walk, he might have sought bigger ticket share for his loyalists. Yet, the other option he could be looking for, in case the party repeats its government, is a change of leadership by the high command as he is satisfied with his relationship with Rahul Gandhi and also knows that Gehlot has not been in the good books of the Gandhi scion in the past few months. If the change happens, Pilot is the one who will ascend,” a party insider said.
Moreover, the four major communities of Rajasthan—Rajput, Jats, Meenas, and Gujjar—had voted in a mixed manner in the 2018 Assembly election, which saw the Congress return to power after five years. Yet, the calculation among political observers is that if Gujjars, who have a sizable chunk in eastern belt of Rajasthan, drift away from Congress due to less enthusiasm shown by Pilot, such a sentiment could hurt the Congress on around 30 seats where Gujjars influence the results. As last time, a huge chunk of Gujjars had only voted for Congress to see Pilot on the CM’s post. However, this time they seem to have lesser clarity on his future.
According to several surveys, the popularity of former CM of Rajasthan Vasundhara Raje has decreased since the 2018 elections. Like Pilot, she has also kept herself less active. Party insiders suggest that there have been efforts by the saffron party’ central leadership to cut her down to size. To counter that, there has been a two-pronged strategy deployed by Raje, according to party leaders, which is to keep the saffron camp under her clutches by keeping the election score of her party around 100 mark. The reason being, if the numbers are a little less, she would turn to independents to add to keep the seats above majority and claim the CM’s post. And if the numbers are already in majority, she would press for defection if she is not made the CM. A political analyst said, “If such a calculation comes to fruition, she may again become the CM for the third time.” Moreover, several analysts see beyond surveys saying, the elections do not look clear due to the pointed interests of Ashok Gehlot and Vasundhara Raje (to become the CM) against the wishes of the high command of their respective parties. Subsequently, the results are also going to be influenced by internal politics of the two veteran leaders driven by self-interest. Prof Shyam Lal, former Vice Chancellor of Rajasthan University, said, “The strategy of the BJP brass seems that they are pursuing to take on the other (Congress) individually on several seats.”
The coming together of the two leaders (Pilot and Gehlot) with Rahul Gandhi seems like wrapping up the campaign with a “unity touch” just to keep away the “house in disorder” perception at bay. Ground assessment suggests that people’s minds are stuck on the traditional electoral pattern that Rajasthan has shown, which is of changing governments every five years. Akash, a core BJP voter in Jaipur, said, “We will again vote for the BJP; the Congress MLA who was elected in the last Assembly elections did not work. Gehlot is working but our MLA is not.” According to political observers, the standard interpretation of the Assembly elections is that the BJP has a clear edge over the Congress.