The 2023 assembly elections in Rajasthan were an assemblage of close contests spanning diverse regions and demographics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won a simple majority on the back of rigorous grassroots campaigning and the draw of its star campaigners led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
As the map below shows, the BJP made strong gains in the Jaipur division and performed well in Udaipur and Jodhpur regions, even in the face of a surprisingly feisty show by the Congress and tight, three-way fights in dozens of seats with rebels, local parties, and independents.
In the end, the BJP won because it made strong gains in some regions, offsetting its losses in others.
As the table below shows, the Congress and ‘Others’ also made gains at the cost of the BJP.
The decisive division was Jaipur, where the contests were more bipolar than in other parts of the state. This aided the BJP because, in a straight fight with the Congress, it is invariably the BJP’s organisational machinery that swings the tide in its favour.
But the margins were messily small in too many seats for the BJP’s comfort and the Congress’ chagrin. These woes, as the table below shows, were exacerbated by the spirited performance of ‘Others’.
A map of the BJP’s win-loss margins says it all. Note the large number of seats in southern Ajmer, Bharatpur in the east, and around Barmer in the west, where the BJP lost badly.
Thankfully for the BJP, the Congress performed worse. Note the many poor shows in Jaisalmer, Udaipur, Kota, and the eastern region. However, the Congress won well in large pockets of southern Ajmer, the area north of Jaipur, and also in the far north, around Sri Ganganagar, where there is a higher concentration of Scheduled Caste votes.
This disparity in voting patterns is reflected in vote-share maps for both national parties. See both below:
If we compare the vote swing for the BJP from 2018 to 2023, it is again a mixed bag. For example, the party has done quite well to pick up a sizeable chunk of votes in the Jat-dominated regions of eastern Rajasthan, but more was needed to make a sweep. However, it has lost a significant vote share in every single seat bordering Gujarat in the south (see the tan crescent running along the bottom of the state in the map below).
Again, we see that the Congress' performance was worse. They, too, lost significantly in the south. (This is the ‘Others’ factor at work in the tribal-dominated Udaipur region and Kota).
Perhaps, the best way to put the Rajasthan elections in perspective is through a map which shows the number of seats in which both the BJP and the Congress came third or lower.
The 2023 assembly elections in Rajasthan may have been a feeble victory for the BJP. And yet, in conclusion, the intense, near-silent grassroots campaigning that the party undertook months before the elections, and the results, show that the state is on the cusp of unlocking the Dharmic vote — if, and only if, the BJP can promote a set of local leaders who rouse a majestic supra-caste consolidation.
Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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