Have the people of Rajasthan rejected Vasundhara Raje?

Exit Poll for Rajasthan Assembly Elections-2018

Exit Poll for Rajasthan Assembly Elections-2018

The people of Rajasthan elected their representatives to 199 seats to the Legislative Assembly on December 7, 2018, and the results will be announced on December 11, 2018.

The Exit Poll of Rajasthan points to the Congress winning back with a majority. Seven out of eight exit polls have shown the Congress coming back to power. If true, it will mark a major setback to the BJP.

In 2013, Vasundhara Raje led the BJP to a sweeping victory over the INC, winning 163 seats. The Ashok Gehlot-led Congress could manage just 21 seats. So, will Rajasthan stick to its longtime tradition of not extending the term of the incumbent government in these elections? Exit polls seem to believe so.

Total Seats: 199
Majority: 100

The diverse outcomes of individual Exit Polls are:

Media BJP INC BSP Others
ABP CSDS 83 101 0 16
Republic TV – Cvoter 52-68 129-145 0 5-11
India Today Axis 55-72 119-141 1-3 3-8
India TV – CNX 80-90 100-110 1-3 6-8
Republic Jan Ki Baat 83-103 81-101 0 15
Times Now – CNX 85 105 2 8
News 24 – Pace 70-80 110-120 0 5-15
NewsX-Neta 80 112 0 8
Maps of India 58 128  – 14

Defeat in Rajasthan will certainly mark a setback for the party that has built its reputation for getting its electoral strategy correct, winning state after state, in the post-2014 General elections. The Modi-Shah combination has been able to galvanize local support in various states, helping the party emerge as a strong national party.

So, what went wrong in Rajasthan, if one were to go by the exit poll predictions?

Vasundhara Raje has been a visible face across Rajasthan and has come across as a popular leader across the state, especially with the women voters. In a state where caste equations strongly impact political fortunes, has the BJP’s caste-ticket distribution failed to make the difference? It would seem so.

A lot has changed since 2013. Mobile and television penetration has increased, and so has general awareness among people. In 2018, two million mobile-carrying youth have exercised their franchise for the first time, and this is a segment for whom jobs matter more than caste. New jobs have been scarce in the state, and lack of opportunities has given rise to resentment against the government. Caste has a little role here.

But Rajasthan remains politically and socially divided into caste lines. The BJP has traditionally drawn support from the Rajputs and the Meenas, a tribal community, while the Congress has had support from the Jats. The Muslims and the Meghwals have shifted loyalties between the two parties but may have swung towards the Congress in these elections.

The Rajputs, who have traditionally been BJP supporters, are not happy with Vasundhara Raje’s leadership. Sensing this, former BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s son, Manvendra Singh, a sitting BJP MP from Sheo and a Rajput, had resigned from the party and decided to take on CM Vasundhara Raje on her turf in Jhalrapatan.

The fight here will be the most closely followed contest in the state. In 2013, Vasundhara Raje won by 60,896 votes, and so many have questioned Manvendra’s decision to take her head-on from Jhalrapatan, instead of contesting from his constituency, Sheo in Barmer. It’s a big political gamble by Manvendra, but the rewards will be great if he manages a win.

Defeating Vasundhara Raje on her turf will serve two purposes for Manvendra. He will emerge as one of the tallest Rajput leaders from the state, and may be rewarded with a ministerial berth at the centre should the Congress make a surprise comeback in 2019. It will also pave the way for the Congress to wean away the Rajputs from the BJP.

Several surveys have reflected people’s concern with lack of jobs and economic development. Unemployment among the youth, rising prices, and poor returns on agriculture, all seem to override traditional caste-based voting patterns. This has gone in favour of the Congress which has used the anti-incumbency to its advantage.

The Congress has kept its supporters in suspense on who will be the candidate for the CM’s post. Both, former CM Ashok Gehlot and the charismatic youth leader Sachin Pilot, remain in contention. Both have been working hard to mobilize party cadres at the grassroots level, and this may be showing up in the exit poll results.

Of the three BJP-ruled states holding elections – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, it’s the latter where the results seem to be decisive. The other two states have an open contest that could go either way.

Watch out for the election results on December 11.

Exit Polls of the other states