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A Congress delegation met Governor Kalyan Singh on 12 Deecmber 2018 to stake claim on government in Rajasthan. The Congress emerged as the single largest party in Rajasthan in Tuesday’s vote count, winning 99 seats. Its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won one seat for a total of 100 seats — the required number to form government. The BJP got 73 seats, and the Bahujan Samaj Party won 6 seats. BSP leader Mayawati on Wednesday pledged support for the Congress. The CPI(M) got two seats, Independents won 13 and other parties got 6, according to the state Election Commission.

Like many other states in India, the major opponents in Rajasthan are the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC). Elections in Rajasthan are contested along caste and community lines, not on issues. Though issues like inflation, corruption and governance are raised by political parties, ultimately caste comes to mind eventually. In Rajasthan, the competition between castes or caste clusters results in kinetic conflict at times. The competition between Jats and Rajputs has been transformed into a bipolar party confrontation. The general perception in their respective communities - Jat, Bishnoi and Rajput - is that they are victims of political conspiracies.

Since Independence, the Congress had a strong antifeudal stance. With land reforms, tillers became owners of the land and the peasants - mainly Jats and Bishnois - became loyal Congress supporters. Rajputs initially organised themselves under the Swatantra party. Being largely anti-Congress, most of them eventually threw their lot with the BJP.

In 1952, in the first elections, the state was still under the influence of princes. In 1952 vidhan sabha elections, the princes fielded a large number of nominees. The praja [the electorate] voted in large number in their favor, and 54 Rajputs were elected in a house of 160. In this election, the share of Jats was 12, Brahmins 22, Muslims two and the Scheduled Castes [SC], 10. But after the 1952 elections, the Rajputs started losing their grip, and in 1957 only 26 won. The Jats started showing their power, and their number doubled from 12 to 23. The Rajputs were increasingly marginalized by the emergence of Jats and Bishnois.

The caste conflict in the state sharpened after the Mandal Commission report. With the implementation of the report, OBC or Other Backward Classes made its way into the lexicon of India’s social justice movement. On August 7, 1990, then PM V.P.Singh announced in Parliament that his government had accepted the Mandal Commission report, which recommended 27% reservation for OBC candidates at all levels of its services. When Jats were granted OBC status, since they were powerful and well off, they cornered the benefit of reservations. Rajputs in Rajasthan felt sidelined ever since their political and social rivals, the Jats, got OBC reservation to one-up them in jobs, and Panchayati Raj and local bodies polls.

Political parties like Congress and BJP provide benefits for the different castes and communities. Both parties ask their ticket aspirants to mention their caste as this would be the main consideration for nominations. In the 2013 Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha), there were 17 Vaishyas, 14 Brahmins, 12 Muslims, seven Gurjars, four Malis, four Kulvis (Choudhrys), three Yadavs, three Kumawats, two Punjabis, two Sikhs, two Sindhis, two Rebaris, two Kalals, two Rawats and a Seervi, Dhakar, and Dangi each.

In the on 01 December 2013 Rajasthan state elections, the ruling Congress government led by Ashok Gehlot was completely routed by the BJP, a result of a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling party in the state. A general sense of being victimized had make its way into the minds of people, who think that the ruling government is supine and inept. Although Gehlot himself won from his constituency of Sardarpura, the Congress suffered a ignominious defeat in the hands of the BJP. Vasundhara Raje was enthroned as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. She attributed the massive success of the BJP in Rajasthan to Narendra Modi’s “good show”. Gehlot on the other hand asserted that the central leadership of the Congress cannot be blamed for the party’s pathetic performance in Rajasthan. He said that neither Rahul Gandhi nor Sonia Gandhi has much role to play in this defeat, and the introspection must come from the state Congress ministry.

Normally, bye-polls are won by the ruling party. The Bharatiya Janata Party suffered a major blow 01 February 2018 to its aspirations of putting up a good showing once again in Rajasthan in the next assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The BJP, which headed the state government led by Vasundhara Raje, lost the by-elections to both the Lok Sabha seats in Alwar and Ajmer, and the Mandalgarh assembly seat, to a resurgent Congress. The loss in the two Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan was a big setback to the BJP considering these were won with significant margins by the party in 2014, when Narendra Modi had led the party to power at the centre. In Rajasthan, the elections were fought in the backdrop of the Padmavaat controversy, which had enraged the Rajput community, which had accused the BJP of not doing enough to stall the release of the movie.

The Congress’ victory in the February 2018 bye-elections in Rajasthan was not unexpected considering the widespread unhappiness that had been building up against the Vasundhara Raje regime. But the magnitude of the victory has come as a surprise to the BJP – and to the Congress. They saw it as a wave in favor of the Congress, cutting across castes as well as the urban-rural divide.

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Page last modified: 12-12-2018 13:15:17 ZULU