The BJP’s success and setbacks in the elections can be attributed to several factors, including leveraging Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s influence, efforts to instill saffron ideology, and capitalizing on anti-incumbency sentiments in the state.
Historical Trend of Voting Out Incumbents
For more than thirty years, Rajasthan has adhered to a cyclical voting pattern known as the “revolving door,” wherein the ruling party changes with each election cycle. Following this trend, after the Congress emerged victorious in the 2018 Assembly elections, forecasts anticipated a win for the BJP in the subsequent polls.
Moreover, the Congress administration during its tenure grappled with issues such as paper leak scandals, internal discord between the Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot factions, a concerning rise in crimes against women, and challenges concerning minority caste and religious groups.
BJP’s Hindutva Pitch
The BJP’s election strategy revolved around promoting its overarching Hindutva agenda. They nominated Hindutva proponents like Bal Mukund Acharya for the Jaipur’s Hawa Mahal constituency and Baba Balaknath for Tijara in Alwar.
Acharya, although not a party member, secured a ticket despite the presence of several prominent figures. He based his candidacy on a campaign advocating for the maintenance of Hindu temples in Jaipur, alleging their neglect due to what he termed as “appeasement” politics.
In the constituency of Tijara, the BJP spearheaded one of the most divisive campaigns in the state. During a campaign speech, Balaknath, representing the BJP, drew a comparison between the BJP and Congress parties to India and Pakistan, asking his supporters, “Do we not need to win the match against Pakistan?”
Additionally, the BJP mobilized voters by consistently spotlighting cases that criticized the Gehlot government, such as the murder of Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor from Udaipur. Lal was allegedly killed by two Muslim individuals over his purported support for former BJP leader Nupur Sharma’s contentious remarks regarding the Prophet.
Maybe due to the BJP’s shrill Hindutva campaign, Muslims may have consolidated behind the Congress.
As per the India Today-My Axis exit poll data, there appears to be a notable shift in Muslim support toward the Congress, with 83 percent aligning with the party compared to the 62 percent reported by CSDS (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) in 2018, marking a substantial increase of 21 percent. Notably, there are 21 seats where the minority population holds significant sway, indicating a probable significant consolidation of votes based on religious affiliations.
In the backdrop of a concerning surge in crimes targeting caste minorities, the exit poll projections hinted at a noteworthy consolidation of votes from Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in favor of the Congress party, while the BJP seemed to maintain an advantage in the General category. According to Axis My India data, the BJP secured 62 percent of the General category votes, compared to the Congress’s 22 percent.
In Jalore constituency, however, BJP’s Jogeshwar Garg is leading with over 15,000 votes. This is the constituency where death of Indra Meghwal, a nine-year-old who was assaulted by his school teacher after he touched a pot of water designated for “upper castes”, led to massive outrage.
Between 2017 and 2023, Rajasthan police registered 56,879 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. On average, crimes against Dalits and Adivasis saw a 22 percent increase from 2018 to 2022.
Ahead of the polls, the BJP refrained from presenting a chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan, sparking reports of internal discord between the party leadership and former CM Vasundhara Raje. Notably, several of Raje’s loyalists, including Yoonus Khan, contested the elections as Independents after being denied tickets by the party.
Gehlot’s Welfare Schemes
The Congress’ better than expected performance came on the back of social security schemes launched by CM Ashok Gehlot. These include the Chiranjeevi Yojana, a state-sponsored health insurance scheme up to Rs 25 lakh that covers most complex ailments and treatments.
Moreover, the party’s focus on long-term relief through initiatives such as raising minimum wages, augmenting old age pensions, subsidizing LPG cylinders, and offering scholarships stood in contrast to the short-term cash incentives provided by earlier state administrations.