Voters choose grand old party over vasundhara raje’s aloof royal hand
NEHA DIXIT & SHOBHITA NAITHANI
A POLITICAL COMMENTATOR in Rajasthan explains why the 2008 state assembly polls cost the BJP dearly. “The highhandedness of Vasundhara Raje led to the alienation of senior leaders and, finally, a rebellion in the party,” says Devendra Bharadwaj. Not many disagree.
On December 8, the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Rajasthan, grabbing 96 seats to the incumbent BJP’s 78 in the 200-seat state assembly. The Congress gained 40 seats over its 2003 tally, while the BJP’s tally dropped by 43. Among the smaller parties the CPM and BSP tripled their tally. The CPM’s score went up from one to three and the BSP’S from two to six.
Factors that contributed to the BJP loss include the undemocratic selection of candidates, disaffection among leaders such as Kirori Lal Meena and Vishvendra — leading to a loss of Meena votes, a disconnect between the party and the government, police brutality against farmers, land grabbing and corruption charges against Raje and the non-implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Raje led the campaign against the Congress on national issues such as price rise, terror attacks and an alleged Congress plot to win minority votes by falsely framing Hindu saints. “Why take terror to the people in Rajasthan when they are looking for water?” scoffs a local Congress worker.
“Om Prakash Mathur and Vasundhara Raje were running the BJP like it was their family fief. Raje had a hugely bloated ego and we wanted to teach her a lesson. Today, we have succeeded,” boasts rebel BJP candidate Kishori Lal Meena.
While Prakash Javadekar, the BJP’s national spokesperson, and Rajasthan BJP president Om Prakash Mathur accept that they erred in the distribution of tickets, sources say the party wasn’t expecting their rout. BJP leaders are keeping mum. “The defeat is sad and painful but I would not like to comment,” said former BJP state president Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi.
Pradesh Congress Committee president CP Joshi, one of the frontrunners for the post of Chief Minister, believes that the BJP lost because it couldn’t match the “work of the Congress worker, the inspiration of the Congress leadership and the united face of the party.”
Ashok Gehlot, the person who spearheaded the Congress campaign in Rajasthan, is the other frontrunner for CM. While the big battle for the state has been won, the tussle for the prime post is only just starting. The only thing that is certain is, as Joshi puts it, that “The party high command will decide.”
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 50, Dated Dec 20, 2008