The Chief Ministerial seat in the state of Rajasthan has continuously changed hands between Bharatiya Janata Party’s Vasundhara Raje and Congress’ Ashok Gehlot in the last 20 years. The electorates of Rajasthan have not voted the incumbent government to power in nearly last three decades. Vasundhara Raje led a successful campaign against the incumbent Ashok Gehlot during the 2013 State Legislative Assembly elections, where the state recorded its highest voter turnout with 74 per cent electorates turning out to vote. Vasundhara Raje-led BJP created history by sweeping the assembly polls, as the party secured 163 seats with an 85 seats swing in favour of the party and restricting the incumbent Congress led by Ashok Gehlot to measly 21 seats dipping down 75 seats from its previous tally. This was the second time Vasundhara Raje got a shot at Chief Ministerial seat in the state.
Fast forward to 2018, the queen of Rajasthan is battling a stiff opposition from within the party as well as from revitalised Congress and other opposition parties. The Rajasthan CM suffered an embarrassing loss as BJP lost in the recent by-polls conducted for the vacant parliamentary and state assembly constituency seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party lost Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats at the hands of its arch nemesis Congress. The defeat has left BJP high command wondering whether Vasundhara Raje is the right face for the party in the upcoming state assembly election. The saffron party will look to overcome the successive failure of the party in recently concluded by-elections as well as the despair of not forming the government in Karnataka, even after emerging as the single largest party.
In the run-up to the upcoming state assembly election in Rajasthan, here are the high and lows of Vasundhara Raje government during the current tenure:
One of the key scheme initiated by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during her first year in the office was the launch of Bhamashah Yojana on August 15, 2014. The scheme was aimed at enabling the financial empowerment of more than 1.5 crore women population of the state. The scheme was first launched during the first tenure of Vasundhara Raje from 2003-08. Bhamashah Yojana has brought financial freedom to the beneficiaries as these women were no longer dependent on their family, something that has hindered the progress of the Rajasthani women in the state. The financial assistance provided by the state government has been transferred directly to the beneficiaries account, keeping the process transparent. At present, more than 1.55 crore families have enrolled for the benefits with nearly 1500 crore rupees worth of financial assistance distributed among the families of the women.
Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA)
Rajasthan has an arid climate making it one of the driest states in India. The state is plagued with frequent droughts, erratic rainfall, and almost regular dry spells. Rajasthan is home to only 1.9% of the country’s overall water resources which is a stark contrast to the sizeable territorial area of the state. Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA) launched in 2016 by Rajasthan Chief Minister aimed at tackling the prevalent water scarcity in the state. The MJSA aimed at making villages in the state self-sufficient in terms of water, increasing the groundwater levels, increased irrigated area, changing the crop pattern. The Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA) has been hailed as one of the best state-sponsored programmes for water harvesting in the country. The programme has already been launched in 295 Blocks of 33 districts of Rajasthan with the help of citizens, line departments, NGOs, corporate houses, religious Trusts, non-resident villagers, Social groups etc.
Grameen Gaurav Path Yojana
The programme was initiated by CM Vasundhara Raje within one year of taking in-charge of the CM’s office. Aimed at bridging the gap and improving the connectivity within the rural areas and the cities, Grameen Gaurav Path Yojana is a flagship programme of the Rajasthan Government to provide last mile connectivity. The programme focuses on the construction of cemented Gram Panchayat roads with proper drainage system within 33 districts covering 2048 km. The programme will be carried out in phases, the first phase focused on constructing 1720 km of roads across 1972 gram panchayats, while the remaining part is to be covered in the second phase. The Rajasthan government has sanctioned an amount of Rs. 1,115 crore and Rajasthan Public Works Department has been assigned the task to complete the work.
A step was taken by the Vasundhara Raje to ensure food security in state that is often plagued with food scarcity due to the arid weather conditions. The Annapurna stores have been set up in several districts across the state to provide multi-brand consumer goods at the fair price along with the essential commodities such as Kerosene, rice, and wheat that were available to the ration-card holders previously. As per the guidelines, the state government bears the 60 per cent of the commodity price while the retail shopkeepers will keep the remaining 40 per cent margin, so as to ensure that the commodity is available at a fair price. To ease the pressure on retailers, the government has ensured that the shopkeepers pay the money in the 10 days stipulated time, while the government is giving out a 2 per cent discount under the “cash payment discount”. The programme is one of a kind in India and aims to spread more awareness among the consumer about Public Distribution System and modern retail business. This year, the CM announced for opening up 1000 more Annapurna bhandar to the already existing 6165 Annapurna shops.
Factions within the BJP
Popularly known as ‘Rani Sa’ among her supporters, CM Vasundhara Raje has a domineering personality, that has led to resentment in some factions of the BJP in the state. Several party workers including MLA of Sanganer Constituency Ghanshyam Tiwari have grown discontented with the functioning of the Chief Minister in the recent years, and especially when the Sanganer MLA was denied a birth in the Cabinet. After party’s dismal performance in the recently contested by-polls in the state, Ghanshyam Tiwari has raised questions against the central leadership of the BJP trying to shield a “corrupt government” and the continuation of Vasundhara’s government.
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s electoral successes since 2014 is to be duly credited to the mobilisation done by the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh’s cadre base, that not only propelled the party to a historic mandate in 2014 Lok Sabha elections but also helped the party in fulfilling the vision of a “Congress-mukht Bharat”. However, the right-wing volunteer-based organisation has distanced itself from Rajasthan’s state leadership since 2013. According to reports, the RSS has been discontented with Vasundhara Raje’s ticket distribution before the 2013 state assembly elections, where she denied the ticket to several RSS workers in Rajasthan. Secondly, the group is miffed with the relocation drive of temples in Jaipur.
Defeat in By-polls
Just about 12 months ago, Rajasthan Chief Minister was buoyed and took it upon herself to ensure that the party was all set to win the Dholpur by-election in April 2017. The tireless efforts made by the Rajasthan CM during the electioneering led the party to a comfortable victory over arch-rivals Congress as the party won the mandate with a comprehensive margin of 38000 votes. However, fast-forward to this year, the CM failed to deliver during the recently conducted by-polls for the Madalgarh Assembly Constituency and the Lok Sabha Constituencies of Ajmer and Alwar. All three seats were occupied by the BJP, but the Congress with the support from regional parties ensured that the CM suffered triple set-back before the decisive mandate in 2018.
Being one of the driest states in the country, Rajasthan has to suffer a lot due to lack of water facilities. The farmers in the state are worst affected by the scarcity of the water and frequent draughts that disrupts the farming and impacts the finances of the farmers. The state promised to provide financial assistance and loan-waivers to the distraught farmers, but in the five years despite the efforts, nothing has changed in terms of farmers plight in Rajasthan.
Farmers have staged several protests against the lack of government initiatives in the past few years, despite the agitation of farmers state government only recently procured loan from state’s banks in order to waive of the farmers’ loans.
Gearing up for State Assembly elections
Rajasthan’s electorates have voted out the incumbent government in the last three decades, with the people opting for a change every 5 years. The battle of the throne in the largest state in the country in terms of geographical area has seen two adversaries the Congress and the BJP battle it out to capture the power. The state’s present government’s tenure is about to get finished in the upcoming months and the state is set to head for a crucial election, where none of the contenders is being taken for granted. The ruling BJP is battling anti-incumbency wave, discontent among the electorates with several measures taken by the state, and most importantly the “rebels” within the party. On the other hand, a resurgent Congress will push itself to the limits to ensure that party emerges victorious as victory can get the ball rolling for the party ahead of crucial 2019 Lok Sabha elections. For the BJP, a defeat can strike a blow to the party’s aspiration of retaining the power in both state and Centre, while a victory will put the saffron party in the pole position of repeating its 2014 Lok Sabha elections performance. Whatever may be the outcome, the fate of both parties will be decided by the electorates of Rajasthan.