Several senior ministers campaigning extensively and camping for long periods in one of the remotest districts of the desert state of Rajasthan.
BJP's numero uno leader in the state micro-managing a by-election campaign whose result is unlikely to have any effect on the stability of her government that came to power with more than two-thirds majority.
A candidate who was handpicked by the state's top leadership after her husband and BSP leader BL Kushwah had to vacate the seat after being convicted in a murder case.
Make no mistake, BJP's high decibel campaign in Dholpur had a degree of desperation to it. One that was more about surviving than thriving. About winning the political slugfest. Of not letting the momentum sway to the other side.
And it had CM Vasundhara Raje's stamp all over.
BJP leaders, from senior ministers Younus Khan, Rajendra Rathore, Kalicharan Saraf and Arun Chaturvedi, to state BJP president Ashok Parnami, stayed put in the district for several days and went all out in a bid to attract the indecisive voter.
Prospective voters were told there will be more development work if the BJP candidate wins. The erstwhile maharani herself campaigned extensively visiting the district twice. And then she stayed put at the Dholpur Palace as the BJP claimed she was medically unfit and had been told to rest.
A claim the Congress refused to buy and alleged it was done to sway the election result.
Raje knew the importance of this by-election. A lot was staked on it. And she knew the course of her political future may partially hinge on its outcome.
|Prospective voters were told there will be more development work if the BJP candidate wins. Photo: Reuters|
Vasundhara had left the state capital for several days and campaigned extensively in Dholpur. After the stupendous results for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh and with rumours of the national leadership thinking about a possible change of command in the state before next year’s Assembly election, the Dholpur by-election clearly had become more symbolic in nature than one would have earlier believed.
And with her political future being linked to it, Raje's campaigning brought verve to an election which could have otherwise been of routine interest.
Before the next Assembly elections arrive, Raje may want to take several populist, big ticket measures. A loss in a by-election could have clearly put paid to her plans, dented the hopes of her lieutenants in the party and once again fanned rumours of a change in leadership. Possibilities Raje had been only too aware about.
A by-election win could have turned into a drop of rain on parched land for the Congress in Rajasthan. However, with a leadership marred by political sluggishness, internal bickering and long periods of indecisiveness, it clearly was slow in taking off the blocks.
Its decision to pit Banwari Lal Sharma, a veteran leader, 78 years of age and a five-time MLA, came much later. Even as the BJP had already swung into campaign mode and seemed to have wrested the initiative away.
The Dholpur victory may allow Raje a little more breathing space in the run-up to the crucial state elections next year and make her detractors stay in their traps for some more time.