Why did Vasundhara Raje fail to hold onto BJP goodwill in the state?

Vasundhara Raje - Voted Out of Power

Vasundhara Raje - Voted Out of Power

The Indian National Congress has managed what a few months back would have seemed impossible – defeated the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP in Rajasthan.

Out of a maximum 199 seats, INC won 99 seats, and the BJP ended with 73 seats. The early stages of counting pointed to a rout, but the BJP put up a stronger show to finally close the day with 73 seats. The Congress is set to form the next government in Rajasthan, and all eyes are on who will become the next Chief Minister.

The final results:

Total Seats: 200
Results declared: 199 (One seat – Ramgarh adjourned)

Party Seats Number of Votes Vote Share
Indian National Congress (INC) 99 13,935,201 39.3%
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  73 13,757,502 38.8%
Independent 13 3,372,206 9.5%
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) 6 14,10,995 4.0%
Rashtriya Loktantrik Party 3 8,56,038 2.4%
Communist Party of India – Marxist [CPI(M)] 2 4,34,210 1.2%
Bhartiya Tribal Party 2 2,55,100 0.7%
Rashtriya Lok Dal 1 1,16,320 0.3%

Vasundhara Raje led the BJP to power with a sweeping victory in 2013 winning 163 out of 200 seats. The INC was decimated with just 21 seats. So, how did Vasundhara Raje, a seemingly popular leader with her party in power in New Delhi, lose out on such massive goodwill from the people in just five years? How did the best political strategists of the BJP led by Amit Shah get their political strategy so wrong?

Rajasthan is a caste-dominated state where caste arithmetic influences ticket distribution and poll outcomes. From the results, it is clear the BJP misread the prevailing political dynamics in the state and completely failed to recognize people’s angst against Vasundhara Raje’s policies and style of government.

The results point to alienation at the grassroots level where the subsistence farmers comprise core voters. This large segment has not been able to benefit from the Centre and the state’s welfare schemes. Due to erratic monsoons and frequent draught situations in many parts of the state, farmers are barely able to survive even during better monsoon years.

Low returns on investments and losses incurred due to crop failure only added to people’s anger against the government. Surveys conducted by various media confirmed local anger at the Vasundhara Raje government as many spoke out about the fact the CM never visited their area in the last five years.

The alienation was made worse by the abrupt and extremely poorly executed demonetization that took away whatever little cash there was in circulation. Resentment kept growing with no solution offered by the powers in Jaipur or Delhi. It has weighed on the voter’s mind, and they have punished the government by switching loyalties to the Congress.

The 99 seats won by the INC in the state does not reflect any major gains or action on the part of the Congress to win over the state, and the party can thank anti-incumbency for the results. Compare the Congress’s 21 seats in 2013 with BJP’s 73 in 2018. The Congress has gained at BJP’s expense but not by a sweeping margin, which points to Vasundhara Raje’s continuing popularity in certain pockets.

Take the fight in CM’s constituency – Jhalrapatan. BJP member and party stalwart Jaswant Singh’s son, Manavendra Singh resigned from the BJP to fight the elections on a Congress ticket against Vasundhara Raje on her turf. It was a high profile contest watched by all.

In the end, Vasundhara Raje prevailed over Manvendra Singh winning by a margin of 34,980 votes. Vasundhara Raje won the seat in 2013 by a margin of 60,896 votes in 2013. She has certainly lost goodwill among the voters in her constituency. The message is loud and clear, and voters of the state have acted accordingly.

INC’s two-time CM Ashok Gehlot won his fight from the Sardarpura constituency outside Jodhpur against Shambhu Singh Khetasar of BJP by a margin of 40,000 votes. In 2013, Gehlot beat the same opponent in the same constituency by 18,000 votes. The shifting of voter loyalty from BJP to the Congress continues. Gehlot is once again in the race for the CM’s post.

Sachin Pilot of INC is another rising figure in state and national politics and is in the race for the CM’s post. He defeated Yoonus Khan (BJP) by 54,179 votes.

Besides alienating the farmers and other backward communities, the BJP lost support from large sections of the powerful Rajput community – traditional supporters of the BJP. Agitations for reservation in 2016 eroded a lot of goodwill Vasundhara Raje and BJP had won over in 2013. It too contributed to BJP’s loss in the state in this election.

BJP has a tough fight going forward. It has lost its bastion in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. With General elections months away, the party high command will have to come up with some magic bullet to sway the masses. Hindutva hasn’t worked, and the government does not have access to the funds for a massive dole out. Most of all, the time is too short for a magical revival but then Amit Shah – Modi duo has been known to come up with surprises.

The fight for 2019 has just begun.


Maps of India Election Results

Rajasthan Election Results

Map of Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha Constituencies

Map of Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha Constituencies in 2018 Election Results