In terms of electoral politics, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has remained a pillar of support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and which has certainly withstood the test of time and many battles.
The heat is on in the western state of Rajasthan even as the summer months are running out fast and the usual feverish campaign is yet to get unleashed.
For Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP, which came to power in Rajasthan with a resounding 163 seats win for the 200-member assembly in 2013, the victory was re-established when the party swept across all 25 parliamentary seats in 2014. For obvious reasons, there is a fierce popularity test of BJP’s welfare measures and Modi government’s policies in a state where the economic jargons related to goods and services tax and demonetisation are day to day words for the citizenry.
The Baniyas, the business community comprising Hindus and Jains, form a large chunk of voters and can possibly influence the fate in 40 seats.
There are also caste issues vis-a-vis the dominant Jats followed by Brahmins – who have often shifted allegiance between the Congress and the BJP and also Dalits or Scheduled Caste communities. Christians are miniscule and Muslims in general at best can influence outcome in about 20 seats maximum.
That way, the issue of Hindutva is very much in debate. The BJP is often under attack for its ‘ideology’ of building a ‘New India’ based on Hindutva principles.
PM Modi's critics do not miss opportunities to accuse him of making false promises of industrial growth, jobs and incentives for farmers. Among the Hindu voters, lot many have craze for issues like Article 370 and construction of a grand Ram temple at Ayodhya.
Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, which was nearly decimated, is banking on “double incumbency” – says former AICC general secretary Mohan Prakash, a local leader.
The Congress leaders in Rajasthan and also in Delhi believe victory in Rajasthan would boost party workers of the grand old political outfit, which has lost multiple polls in various states since 2014.
In Kota-Jhalwar region – once considered a bastion for Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, things are perhaps certainly turning difficult for the ruling BJP.
Many locals swear by a pro-change mood in favour of the Congress party and adding to the woes came in the upper caste anguish against the central law on atrocities against Scheduled Caste-Scheduled Tribe (SC-ST) communities.
“Narendra Modi hosh mein aao (Prime Minister Modi come to your senses. This is a warning),” screamed Geeta Parikh, a woman activist at Kota.
“The SC-ST law ordering immediate arrest of upper caste people just on the basis of a complaint is akin to mob-lynching. This black law should go,” demanded Anil Sharma, regional president of Samta Andolan Samiti near BJP sitting legislator Prahlad Gunjal’s office at Nayapura area in North Kota assembly segment.
The anti-BJP protestors included members from Brahmins, Rajputs and Jains.
There are other sections of people who too have complaints against the BJP – especially against the Raje regime. Some sections go candid.
Abhilash Kumar, a new entrant to the Rajasthan government service, says he will vote against the BJP because the Raje regime is being indifferent and insensitive to the demand to the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission report.
But, he adds in simpler language and sums up the paradox: “Ideologically, I still remain firm about Hindutva ideology and the good works done by the Modi government. In the Lok Sabha polls, I will come back to the BJP fold yet again”.
According to Bharatpur-based influential Jat leader, Vishvendra Singh:
“All 200 panchayat samitis are today defunct. The roadways staffs are on strike. So the common man is suffering...Old people are unable to draw their pension. Panchayat Raj is in standstill...All the promises made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi were lip service. No deliverance. So essentially, there is an anti-BJP mood”.
The state BJP spokesman Jitendra Shrimali counters the Congress ‘confidence’ and says the opposition party is only indulging in wishful thinking without assessing their own inherent weaknesses.
“Knowing pretty well that their campaign and propaganda is not yielding results and that our traditional supporters will never move towards Congress, the opposition party leaders are urging the voters – especially the upper caste ones to opt for NOTA,” says Shrimali.
He says most of Congress confidence is misplaced. “The infighting between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot will add to our advantage. I see the height of negative politics. Knowing very well that our traditional supporters will never move towards Congress, its leaders are urging voters – especially the upper caste ones to opt for NOTA”, he adds.
This negativity of asking voters to opt for NOTA shows the Congress does not have the confidence of urging the electorate to vote for them, says Shrimali adding that the so called anti-incumbency wave will be a thing of the past in next one month.
Another BJP leader and three time legislator (from Bharatpur) Vijay Bansal told Swarajya: “Congress lacks confidence to fight alone. They are already looking for excuses and face savers for Rahul Gandhi. Otherwise, what is the big talk about alliance with Mayawati’s BSP even as she has shown them little respect and snubbed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi”.
Rajender Chaudhary, a cloth merchant in Kota, says: “There may be loss of votes for BJP especially from traders and farmers, but ultimately the saffron party will retain Kota North and Kota South assembly seats”.
Moreover, there have been subtle references to cold war between BJP chief Amit Shah and Chief Minister Raje. The clash often gave mixed and wrong signals to the foot soldiers.
Shah Ropes In RSS
Therefore, a worried Shah recently met top RSS leaders in Rajasthan and sought their active cooperation. “This help and cooperation is more than needing a few extra helping hands. We need their advice, day to day feedback and counselling to draw the electoral strategy,” a key state leader told Swarajya.
Accordingly the Sangh fountainhead leaders and their ‘preferred faces’ in Rajasthan BJP have been taken aboard for steering the election strategy.
“This is a game changer on cards, and we are expecting good results,” says BJP spokesman Jitendra Shrimali, himself a product of ABVP politics.
Six people have been drafted into a special panel and the state of Rajasthan has been divided into three typical RSS zones – Jaipur, Jodhpur and Chittoragarh. The leaders enlisted to work in this endeavour include two union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekawat (a Rajput) and Arjun Ram Meghawal (a Dalit) and four others from organisational background – V Satish, Avinash Rai Khanna, Satish Puniya and organisational secretary Chandrashekhar.
“These leaders split into three sub panels will visit each constituencies and preferably blocks to enlist people’s views on performing ministers, MLAs and others and as to why there is a talk about voters’ unhappiness with Vasundhara Raje regime,” a source said.
V Satish and Satish Puniya will work for Jodhpur region – which has substantial Jat and Other Backward Class votes.
Similarly to make a dent among Dalit and other sections of voters including Brahmins and Baniyas – Meghawal will work in coordination with Khanna in Jaipur region while Rajput leader Shekhawat and an old organisation hand Chandrashekhar will be involved in traditional Rajput-dominated seats in Chittoragarh.
Now, the answer to the question how much impact the strategy can make remains in the womb of time only.
But the move signals the seriousness of purpose on the part of Amit Shah. He has also appointed Union Minister Prakash Javadekar as party’s poll in charge for Rajasthan. Notably, Javadekar has discharged this responsibility earlier in Manipur and Karnataka – where, of course, despite making a comeback in number of seats – BJP’s strength fell short of the magic number.
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