Jaipur: It is celebration time for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Rajasthan. After all the sound and fury of Lalitgate in Parliament and outside—with the Congress demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for having helped the fugitive Lalit Modi evade the long arm of the law—the BJP managed to handily win a majority of the state’s municipal bodies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to tweet his congratulations to the party workers and leaders of the state and thank the people of Rajasthan for the BJP’s performance.
The BJP secured a clear mandate in 67 of the 129 civic bodies that went to the polls on August 17 in the state. While the opposition Congress had to remain content with only 33 bodies, the results left both parties with some unexpected—and unpleasant—surprises. too
Raje faced defeat on her home turf Jhalawar, also represented by her son Dushyant Singh in the Lok Sabha, and in Dholpur. Ironically, the Congress too lost Ajmer, the former constituency of Pradesh Congress Chief Sachin Pilot, where he was expecting to gain ground.
The independents too surprised everyone by their conspicuous presence in as many as 704 wards.
Ever since Raje’s return to power in 2013 with an unprecedented majority, reducing the Congress to its all time low in the 200 member Rajasthan assembly, she has led the BJP to a continuous winning spree. For the first time in the history of Rajasthan, the party won all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 general elections. This was followed by its impressive victory in five of the six municipal corporation elections that went to the polls last November. It was an obvious debacle for the opposition Congress but the party hoped to regain some glory in the panchayat polls. which followed
The political winds, however, continued to favour Raje, as her party emerged victorious in those elections as well.
The civic polls for the remaining 129 bodies was the last chance for the Rajasthan Congress to make its presence felt, for the next battle of the ballot will be the 2018 assembly elections. That is why the latest results have been particularly demoralising for it. The Congress leadership was not only confident of its growing appeal but was also confident that the Lalitgate controversy would surely make a dent in Vasundhara Raje’s popularity.
Now that this confidence has been shown to be misplaced, the Congress is consoling itself by pointing the increase in its vote share. PTI reports that that the BJP won 37% of the popular vote, just 4 percentage points ahead of the Congress. In the general election, the BJP vote share, at 54.9%, was nearly 25 percentage points ahead of the Congress.s
This year’s elections—both the Panchayat and current civic polls—were held after the government made it mandatory for contestants to have formal educational qualifications. The introduction of this rule on the eve of the Panchayat elections ousted many veterans from the fray. There were instances where contestants even used fake certificates to enter the election and many who fled later for fear of being caught.
While it is too early to say whether some candidates opted for the same fraudulent ways in order to try their luck in the civic elections, supporters and critics of the move will now have the opportunity to analyse whether the more ‘literate’ civic boards Rajasthan now has will make it a better governed state.
With the latest election behind her, and with Prime Minister Modi having backed her to the hilt on Lalitgate, Vasundhara Raje is likely to turn her attention to the preparations for ‘Resurgent Rajasthan’—her dream venture slated for November. The Congress party, meanwhile, has its work cut out for it. PCC chief Sachin Pilot has vowed not to wear a safa till his party returns to power. As things stand, his turban may take a long time coming.