Thursday, August 11th, 2022 01:32:06

A Tough Battle In The Offing

Updated: October 19, 2013 2:01 pm

When BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi addressed a rally at Jaipur to mark the culmination of Vasundhara Raje’s Suraj Sankalp Yatra, a massive crowd turned up. To every body’s surprise, this rally was one of the biggest in the history of the state with mammoth participation of the youth. The youth came in from various districts to provide their support for the BJP. The large presence of the crowd showed Modi in a new light. It seems he has started getting the attention of the youth. In this rally, more than 40 per cent of the crowd was youth, who showed its solidarity with the BJP. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi addressed two rallies at the backward region of Baran and at the tribal belt of Salumbar, near Udaipur. Rahul also drew reasonably good crowd at both the rallies, but what he attracted was a mixed crowd of young, middle-aged and old people. This showed that Rahul is yet to get the youth on his side and is yet to become a youth icon.

Modi has started focusing on youth and he feels if the BJP can muster the support of 40 per cent youth of the country, it would win half the electoral battle. Modi has done his homework well and he knows that the youth would be the game changer in the forthcoming polls in four states of Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the youths from the age group of 18 to 28 hold the key to the eventual result, as they form 34.44 per cent of the total electorate in all the four states. Of this, 19 per cent of the youth would be the first-time voters.

In Rajasthan, the total number of voters are 4.29 crore and, out of them, 85.96 lakh are new voters, who belong to the age-group of 18 to 23. The new voters are 20.04 per cent of the total number of electorate. Among them, if the voters belonging to the age-group of 23 to 28 years are added, the total number of voters, who are under 28 years of age, would be 1.47 crore and this number is capable of influencing the decision at the polls.

According to psephologist GVL Narasimha Rao, high inflation, corruption, high fuel prices and fewer job opportunities are the factors that influence the youth and Rao feels that in a situation where the clash is between two parties, as is the case in Rajasthan, where the third force has a very weak existence, even a 1.5 per cent swing can alter the eventual result. The psephologist feels that the first-time voters are always enthusiastic about exercising their franchise and as compared to others they have more knowledge about the major national issues and they are the group that goes by independent assessments of the political parties and is not influenced by caste or creed. Similarly, those who have already been a first-time voters are also equally enthusiastic and they have a tendency to analyse the performance of the person or the party to whom they voted last time. They are a very highly growing class which scrutinises the performance of its MLAs and MPs and also the government.

A glance at the voting pattern of the 2008 Assembly election in Rajasthan suggests that the Congress won 96 seats out of 200 seats and the BJP, which was in power, lost the mandate to rule, as it could secure only78 seats. Thus, the Congress managed to secure 36.82 per cent votes vis-a-vis the BJP’s 34.27 per cent. Hence, with a swing of 2.35 per cent, the Congress could win 18 more seats. The Congress was in power between 1998 and 2003 and in the 2003 Vidhan Sabha election, the BJP fielded a new face, Vasundhara Raje to lead the party. Before her, it was the late patriarch Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who led the party from the front right from the Jan Sangh days. Vasundhara undertook the Parivartan Yatra and went to all the nooks and crannies of the state as the BJP’s flag-bearer and in the electoral battle the BJP trounced the Congress. The Congress, which had won 156 seats in the 1998 elections, came down tumbling and could win only 56 seats as against the BJP’s 120 seats. It was for the first time that the BJP formed the government on its own, something which Shekhawat in his heyday could not do.

In the 2003 elections, the BJP securing 39.20 per cent of total votes clinched 120 seats, while the ruling Congress securing 34.27 per cent votes won 56 seats. Thus, a mere 1.29 per cent swing enabled the BJP to come to power as the single largest party. In the last elections, the Congress lured the youth promising them far more job opportunities, which worked well for the Congress in the form of 2.5 per cent votes more as compared to 2003, and enabled it to add 40 seats. The Ashok Gehlot government would be known for offering freebies to the people in the election year and the Gehlot government disbursed laptops and tablets to the students in a big way. Vasundhara Raje on the other hand has promised to generate 10 lakh new jobs if the BJP bounces back to power.

According to psephologist, corruption and crime are key issues, which influence the youth mind. In 2008 Assembly elections, the Congress started a tirade against Vasundhara Raje’s government alleging that a Rs-5000 crore scam was committed in the state and man like Lalit Modi brokered a number of land deals, which benefitted Vasundhara Raje. Even BJP’s own senior party member and former minister Kailash Meghwal alleged that she was in the helm of a massive scam. All this culminated in the loss in the elections. However, the Congress could form the government only with the help of the Independents and later managed to get the support of the six BSP MLAs to strengthen its position.

Sex and crime are also the issues that influence the mind of the young voters and the Congress is facing unbearable music at this front. After the sex and killing scandal of Bhanwari Devi, due to which Public Health Engineering Minister Mahipal Maderna and the Congress MLA Malkhan Singh were sent to jail, a minister Ram Lal Jat was forced to resign when he took the body of a woman, with whom he had relationship, to the hospital for postmortem after she died in mysterious circumstances. The latest is Dairy and Village Industries Minister Babu Lal Nagar, who had to resign after a woman alleged that she was raped by the minister in his home after she was summoned by the minister by a mobile call. A veteran Udai Lal Anjna, who is a sitting Congress MLA and is a former MP from Chittorgarh, has been allegedly involved in sexual exploitation of a middle-aged woman for over 15 years. She alleged that Anjna had sexually exploited her without marrying her. These allegations and arrests have caused immense damage to the Congress.

The BJP is also not untouched with the crime issue and a former minister Rajendra Singh Rathor is facing charges of killing a Jat bootlegger Dariya, who was killed in a fake encounter. The Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria is also facing charges in the Gujarat’s Soharabuddin fake encounter case. The Congress cadres with Rahul Gandhi as the vice president of the party hope to get a good deal for the youth and they expect that the party would field a large number of young faces. But while going through the list of the persons, who are seeking tickets, there are people who are as old as 80 years.

The Congress may not give the youth large a number of tickets, as they may not be winnable. The Congress tickets are to be disbursed largely by the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who has won the confidence of both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Gehlot is keen to do away with 20 per cent of the sitting MLAs and bring new faces instead, but he has few options. Any large-scale denial of tickets to the sitting Congress MLAs would cause rebellion and such candidates may contest as an Independents and cause damage to the Congress candidates. As the elections are going to be a very keen battle, both the parties will have to be very cautious in choosing candidates. But in state where the caste politics is very strong, choosing the right candidate is an uphill task for both the ruling Congress and the BJP.

Both the Congress and the BJP are trying to involve the youth in the campaign and Vasundhara Raje addressed the youth at a youth programme, which was very successful. The Congress has chosen a Jat woman sports celebrity as an answer to the BJP’s Rajput sports celebrity, Olympic medalist in shooting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathor. Commonwealth Games gold medalist, discuss-thrower Krishna Punia has made up her mind to quit her railway job as assistant personnel officer and join the Congress and contest the December Assembly election from Sardulpur in Churu district, her home district.

“At the behest of friends and Jat community people, I have decided to join the Congress. If the party finds me capable enough to contest the election, I shall abide by the party’s decision. It is a new role that I have chosen for myself,” said the Olympian Krishna. The BJP inducted Rathor and the princess of Jaipur Diya Kumari into the party to woo the Rajput votes. But the Congress chose a Jat woman to appease the Jat community, which has 17 per cent population in the state.

Poonia, who was showered with cash and a house, when she won the Commonwealth discuss gold, by the Gehlot government, was treated like a real victor and the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot proposed her that she could join the state police as a deputy superintendent of police, which would have made her a state police service officials. And after a decade or so, she could have become the Indian Police Service officer. But she declined the offer so as to pursue her career in athletics.

Punia, who last month kicked up a controversy, when she was denied the Khel Ratna award and instead shooter Ronjon Sodhi was honoured, was very upset with the Sports Ministry and she met the Sports Minister to change the decision, but could not succeed. Krishna, who unlike Rajyavardhan Singh Rathor could not win a medal in the Olympics and finished seventh, was sore that she was not given the Khel Ratna award. The Pradesh Congress president Dr Chandrabhan inspired Krishna to join politics, as she has a very good prospect of winning from Sardulpur constituency, which has 35,000 Punia community votes. If Krishna is fielded for the Vidhan Sabha election, she will be pitted against Kamla Kaswan, wife of Ram Singh Kaswan, the sitting MLA from Sardulpur.

By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur

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