Desert storm rising: Exit polls predict Congress clean sweep in Rajasthan
The India Today-Axis My India exit poll predicts BJP coming down from 163 to 55 to 72 seats out of 200.
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The India Today-Axis My India exit poll has predicted a massive win for the Congress in Rajasthan, giving it 119 to 141 of the state’s 200 seats.
The BJP is predicted to get only 55 to 72 seats — a far cry from the 163 it won in the 2013 elections.
Out of the smaller players, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is predicted to win 1-3 seats, while 3 to 8 seats will go to others.
What could have worked against BJP
Rajasthan has a tradition of booting out the party in power, and this time round, going by reports, anti-incumbency against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was high. Many, including BJP party workers, felt she was “arrogant” and “unapproachable”.
Rajputs, a loyal BJP votebank, were irked with her for several reasons, including the Padmaavat fracas, gangster Anandpal Singh's encounter, and of Rajput leader Gajendra Shekhawat losing out on the BJP Rajasthan unit chief post a few months ago.
Rajasthan has also been reeling under unprecedented farm distress for the past few years.
In April-May alone this year, five farmers in Rajasthan committed suicide. As solutions, the state has offered loan waivers and the Centre a hiked MSP — which many claim is inadequate. The Congress has seized on the issue, using it in a big way to attack the government.
Another major reason for dissatisfaction with the government is unemployment.
While Raje had promised 1.5 million jobs in 2013, four years later, reports put the unemployment rate among those in the 20-29 years age bracket in the state at 55%; the rate of unemployment among graduates is 14%.
Raje’s government has also faced allegations of corruption — most notably, the mining scam.
Also, Raje is none too popular within the BJP, with reports of her friction with Amit Shah often making headlines.
Many, including BJP party workers, felt Raje was 'arrogant' and 'unapproachable'. (Photo: India Today)
Another issue is the never-ending competition for quotas in the state. The Gujjars are traditionally BJP voters. The Raje government tried to meet their long-held demand of reservation by accommodating them among the existing OBC quota. However, while Gujjars say their demand has not been met in its entirety, the Jats — who get OBC quota benefits — resent the reducing of their share of the pie.
Rajasthan is among the few states where the Congress still has a strong regional leadership, and the party has fought hard this time.
Sachin Pilot, the state Congress president, has been credited with working hard to build the ground-level strength of the party — the results of which were apparent in the January by-polls this year.
The Congress has seized on the government’s failures with full vigour, going to town with farm distress and corruption allegations.
Despite the apparent rivalry between Pilot and Gehlot, the Congress managed to put up a more or less united front. (Photo: PTI)
It has also played the caste cards cleverly — trying to tap into Rajput anger, and taking care not to antagonise other communities. For example, it has refrained from declaring Pilot, a Gujjar, as its CM face, because that could upset the Jats.
While there have been public glimpses of rivalry between Pilot and Ashok Gehlot, the party has managed to keep infighting reasonably under the lid.
However, reports have suggested that the Congress has bungled up in ticket distribution.
Also, while anti-incumbency was indeed high, Raje’s Gaurav Yatra, and rallies by Amit Shah and PM Modi did manage to turn the tide to some extent. The RSS too, keeping aside its lack of affection with Raje, eventually helped in ground-level campaigning.
If the exit polls are to be believed, the Congress is on its way to power in a major state after a long, long winter.
If not, Raje is on the path to make history.