Jaipur: The Indian National Congress has won the Rajasthan assembly election held on January 28 for the Ramgarh seat in the Alwar district. The election was deferred after the death of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Laxman Singh days before the state assembly polls scheduled on December 7, 2018.
In the last five elections on the seat, the Congress won twice under Zubair Khan and the Bharatiya Janata Party thrice under Gyan Dev Ahuja. Both parties had changed their candidates this time.
The Congress fielded Shafia Zubair Khan, Zubair Khan’s wife. Zubair is a three-time MLA from Ramgarh, and present party in-charge in Uttar Pradesh. The decision was taken in light of him losing the seat since 2008.
The BJP fielded Sukhwant Singh, replacing the controversial three-time MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja, infamous for his remarks on condoms in Jawaharlal Nehru University and defending cow vigilantes in the district.
Even before the election to the seat was deferred, Ahuja was denied the ticket from Ramgarh, apparently because of his remarks against former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Subsequently, he had announced that he would contest independently from the Sanganer seat in Jaipur. However, Ahuja was inducted as vice president of the state BJP unit by party president Amit Shah.
The BSP had fielded former Union minister Natwar Singh’s son Jagat Singh.
Categorised as a rural seat, Ramgarh comprises 38% Muslims, 16.4% Scheduled Castes and 3.2% Schedule Tribes voters. Congress’s Shafia Zubair received 83,311 votes, followed by BJP’s Sukhwant Singh with 71,083 votes. BSP’s Jagat Singh could garner only 24,856 votes.
Speaking to The Wire, deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot said, “Despite polarisation in this constituency, the divisive forces have fallen apart. It is an endorsement of Rahul Gandhi, his policies and what the Congress stood for. The BJP and BSP had put in all efforts to win this seat, but the party’s victory is seen as approval for what the government is doing in the last month, and this has definitely set the tone for the general elections.”
Ten of 11 assembly seats in Alwar went to the polls at the end of last year. The Congress emerged victorious on four seats – SC-reserved Alwar (rural) and Kathumar seats, ST-reserved Rajgarh-Laxmangarh seat, and the Bansur seat. The BJP and BSP won two seats each, and two went to independents.
In the Behror assembly constituency in the district, infamous for mob lynching incidents, both the BJP and the Congress lost to an independent candidate, Baljeet Yadav.
With one more seat under its belt, the Congress has managed to attain a majority in the 200-seat state assembly. The updated count of seats in the state is: Congress (100), BJP (73), BSP (6), CPI(M) (2) and BTP (2), RLD (1), RLTP (3) and independents (13).
The BJP believes that Ramgarh outcome has nothing to do with the general elections. “The Congress is known for winning in Mewat by hooliganism, but this victory isn’t going to affect the BJP’s prospect in the general elections,” Gyan Dev Ahuja told The Wire.
In-fighting in the Congress
Congress’s victory in Ramgarh was a prestige issue, as the party’s performance in Alwar during the assembly polls was far better than in other districts in the state.
Meanwhile, infighting in the Banswara-Dungarpur, Kota, Jhalawar, Chittorgarh, Bharatpur, Bikaner, Pali and Jalore-Sirohi seats have surfaced.
There is resentment among the MLAs there for not being made ministers. Mahendrajeet Malviya, the MLA from the Banswara-Dungarpur seat, publicly revealed that he’s not comfortable with new faces coming into the party. After Mamata Sharma joined the BJP, the party has no winning face from Kota.
In Vasundhara Raje’s home turf Jhalawar, Pramod Jain Bhaya, the current cow minister in the Congress government, and his wife do not face an easy path going into 2019.
In the Jalore-Sirohi belt, the party had secured only a single seat in the 2018 assembly elections. However, it is speculated that chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav Gehlot may fight the Lok Sabha polls from the region.
In Bharatpur, Meo votes are expected to as MLA Zahida Khan was not given a ministerial role.