P B Chandra finds out if the ‘Modi wave’ is sweeping the desert state as party workers have been claiming since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s thumping victory in the assembly polls last year.
The keys of the electronic voting machines in Rajasthan were never pushed as many times for a Lok Sabha election before, as it was done on Thursday in the first phase of the polls, where voting in 20 out of the 25 constituencies was held. P B Chandra reports
“I am confident of a sweep in all the 20 seats. At this rate, the other five seats which will go to poll on April 24 would also go our way and our ‘Mission 25’ would be achieved. I will be campaigning aggressively to ensure this,” Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje told Rediff.com.
The state’s polling percentage was 64 per cent and increase of more than 15 per cent, compared with 2009. In half the seats, polling was 54 per cent, yet it was three per cent higher than 2009. The Pandoloi village in Ajmer district witnessed 99 per cent polling -- with 404 of the 407 voters coming to the polling booth.
After 16 years, polling crossed 60 per cent, sealing the fate of notable leaders such as Sachin Pilot, Girija Vyas, C P Joshi, Jaswant Singh, Buta Singh, Chandresh Kumari and Rajyavardhan Singh.
The Congress, which won 20 out of 25 seats in 2009, is a dispirited lot. This could be judged by the fact that in the first phase, while the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed five elections rallies, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed two, and Sonia just one.
In fact, two of Sonia’s and Rahul’s rallies were cancelled because the candidates put up by the party had little or no chance of a victory. Rahul was to address the rally at Barmer from where Jaswant Singh is contesting as an Independent against the BJP’s Sonaram Choudhry. The sitting Congress member of Parliament slipped to the third spot and his advisers decided not to send him to Barmer.
Barmer recorded 72 per cent polling which was 17 per cent more than 2009.
“This was the result of a massive campaign for enrolment of new voters, and correcting and adding the new names in the electoral lists. Having done that, we used publicity to enlighten the people to go to the polling booth, and the campaign paid off. This is evident from the large turnout,” said Ashok Jain, chief electoral officer, Rajasthan.
In Western Rajasthan, more than 18,000 Hindus who migrated from Pakistan cast their votes for the first time after getting citizenship.\
The Congress had fared very poorly in last December’s assembly elections, and could win only 21 out of the 200 seats. After such a humiliating defeat, Union Minister for Corporate Affairs Sachin Pilot was sent by the party’s high command to take up the Pradesh Congress Committee chief’s post. But he was restricted to his own constituency in Ajmer where he found that the BJP opponent Sanwar Lal Jat a tough nut to crack.
The Wharton-educated Pilot was not expected to do the turnaround. If he manages to save his own citadel in Ajmer, it would be a big victory for him.
“Just think of the Congress; not a single candidate asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to come and campaign in Rajasthan. There were no takers for the PM. He was not called even for the Vidhan Sabha elections. You compare the existing PM with our projected PM who carries such a mass appeal,” opined BJP spokesperson Jyoti Kiran.
“The high percentage of polling is caused by the ‘Modi effect’ and it clearly indicates polarisation in favour of the BJP. It seems the voters have opted to think beyond caste lines. Even in the two Tribal reserved seats of Banswara and Udaipur in southern Rajasthan, people were not talking on caste lines. It was a vote for change and it was a change to see Modi as the PM,” said BJP’s Rajya Sabha member V P Singh.
The Congress at the most can get two-three seats, and Jaswant Singh may win from Barmer as an Independent. Thus, the BJP is going to get 20-plus seats which would be a feather in the cap for Vasundhara Raje, who fielded 13 new faces. This massive victory would also pave way for a significant position for her in the party’s hierarchy.
The Congress had sidelined former chief minister Ashok Gehlot after the crushing defeat in December’s election. But the party soon realised his importance when it found that both Pilot and CP Joshi who were contesting elections would not be able to go to other constituencies.
Thus, Gehlot was provided with a helicopter by the party for canvassing. Gehlot’s recall saw the party workers coming out from their slumber to campaign.
Losing the elections this time would see the Congress shattered and the party will have to look towards Gehlot to revive it.