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The Rediff Election Special/ Dr N Bhaskara Rao
Congress poised to sweep Rajasthan: survey
In Rajasthan, the Congress seems set to sweep back to power in next week's assembly election -- indications at this point being that the party will sweep 120 of the 200 seats on offer in the state assembly. The Congress could, however, fall short of a two-thirds majority.
For its part, the Bharatiya Janata Party could be in for a humbling experience, as it could lose nearly one-third of the seats it won in 1993.
The swing against the BJP in Rajasthan is significant. The Congress will poll 44 per cent of the popular vote, a gain of 5.7 percentage points over 1993. The margin between the two parties is thus widening. In fact, the Congress gain continues even after the finalisation of the candidates of both the contending parties on November 9.
The voters' perception is that Congress candidates are far better than those fielded by the BJP. In fact, every third voter thinks that BJP candidates are "bad elements", while every fifth voter thinks the same about the Congress candidates in the fray.
These are some of the highlights of the latest Centre for Media Studies pre-poll survey conducted in Rajasthan between November 10 and 13.
Between the first CMS survey, carried out at the end of August when the electoral process began, and this latest one, the BJP has lost an additional 1.6 percentage points to the Congress. Thus, as per the first round of the survey, the Congress was expected to win only between 102 to 106 seats, with the BJP poised to take between 76 to 78 seats.
With eight days to go for the polls, voter polarisation has reached such a level that only five per cent of the total voters still fall in the undecided category. This is more bad news for the BJP, since it means that even if this segment decides to swing towards that party, the additional votes won't make that much of a difference.
For the rest -- Independents, the Janata Dal, the Lok Dal and others -- it is a story of loss, with indications being that they will win a total of 13 to 16 seats, as against the 28 seats they captured in 1993.
The CMS survey covered 19 assembly constituencies with 1,900 carefully selected voters across the state forming the sample. The margin of error is minus 3.5 per cent.
About 60 per cent of Rajasthan voters are scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, Jats, Muslims and Sikhs -- and over half of these segments are throwing their weight behind Congress candidates. Among these voters, there is a clear swing towards the Congress as compared to the first CMS poll in August-end.
Rajputs, Brahmins, Vaishyas and Jains, accounting for 30 per cent of the electorate, have moved the other way, with 60 per cent of these voters opting for BJP candidates.
Price rise remains the key issue, with three-fourth of the voters indicating that they are feeling the pinch of skyrocketing prices, and that this factor could influence their voting.
Other major issues are unemployment, corruption and law and order.
Nearly 55 per cent of the voters expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of Chief Minister and BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat -- though this opinion is not shared by Rajputs, Vaishyas and Brahmins.
Nearly 60 per cent of the voters believe the Congress can provide a more stable government. Interestingly, though, over 50 per cent of the voters argue that the BJP-led federal government should continue even after the party loses power in Rajasthan.
Among individuals, 37 per cent of voters think Shekhawat is the best candidate to be chief minister, as against 46 per cent who named either Rajesh Pilot or Ashok Ghelot of the Congress. Of the latter, 26 per cent opted for Pilot, while 20 per cent were inclined towards Gehlot.
In the final analysis, the anti-incumbency factor, the spiralling prices and Shekhawat's failure to deliver could be the underlying causes for an anticipated BJP debacle.
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