A look at the itinerary of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for December and January shows as if she is on an election mode. Instead of organising a mega rally in Jaipur to celebrate the completion of three years in power, her party, the Bhartiya Janata Party, is holding rallies in districts.
She is addressing the gatherings in bigger districts staying there for two days. She takes along team of senior officials from Jaipur and makes them get feedback from the local party workers as she tries to issue orders and sort out problems right there.
The issues are local but contribute immensely in building an atmosphere of trust for her government. "This is a year of consolidation,” she tells Mail Today: “(we have)to ensure that we are able to finish what we have started.”
She is leading from the front and mobilising the party through her travels across the state as she categorically rules out any seasonal gossip about her being replaced before the polls. “I will be leading the party as chief minister in the next elections too,” she snubs anyone asking her if she hopes to carry on till December 2018, when elections to state Assembly are due.
She attracts crowds and can translate it into votes. Then why does she need to get into election mode so early?
Raje knows that voters in the state are too impatient to let any chief minister have a second consecutive term during the past two decades. She is the only one who has been elected with a record number of seats and margins twice, and she is the one who lost very narrowly in 2008, getting 78 MLAs against 96 of Congress. Otherwise, the losers are just wiped out.
That is why despite winning 163 out of 200 seats in 2013, she knows she too can be massacred to suffer a humiliating defeat. There is already an anti-incumbency feeling against her and if polls are held today, she will barely manage a win, not an outright one.
|Raje knows that voters in the state are too impatient to let any chief minister have a second consecutive term during the past two decades.|
The good thing is that she knows that she has a tough time ahead and that is why she has started identifying reasons for it and is beginning to rectify the faults.
The very first signs of her poll strategy can be gauged by the way she addresses rallies. She is in her usual self which demonstrates enough confidence along with a personal and casual touch. “At least come and talk to us. I have been always around,” she says with a rather informal smile.
The audience enjoys listening to her. Of course, even her ministers who were close to her during her previous tenure have been telling Mail Today that in her current tenure she has been keeping a distance from them. Besides being inaccessible, she has been too formal whenever she meets them. They and others who had a good access to her in the past blame an emerging coterie around her of officials and aides who rarely work to ensure good media coverage for her.
Besides, she is facing criticism for relying too much on members of her advisory council, which comprises non-official experts drawn from different fields with whom she has a personal equation. Such talk about her has been damaging her and the party, and there seems to be a realisation on her part to address this issue now.
The second crucial angle in her speeches is to tell party workers and MLAs to stop cribbing and get ready for the next polls. She knows that many in the party feel bad about not getting a share in power so far, but she is putting the ball in their court. She has been asking them about flagship schemes of the government and admits that many of them, including MPs and MLAs, are unaware about these.
For that too, she herself has to be blamed as she has been placing too much of reliance on bureaucracy and others who tried to create a vacuum around her.
Political observers draw similarity in her functioning with her predecessor Ashok Gehlot who kept delaying the launching of schemes till election year, and when he began, people had already made up their mind to vote against him. His every effort to pamper voters using populist schemes was perceived as bribes.
Raje, so far, has appeared as if she too has been adopting that strategy, but now it is clear that she is working to go in for inauguration mode as she moves closer to elections. The new projects and schemes would be launched later in the fourth year or in the beginning of the election.
This year, more than consolidation, it is correction for Raje, to bring her in the reckoning for an outright victory again.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)