All in the arithmetic

Without an alliance, the Congress may find the going difficult in Rajasthan
Going by the electoral trend of the past 25 years in Rajasthan, it should be the turn of the Congress to form a government in Rajasthan after the Assembly elections later this year. The people of Rajasthan have not re-elected an incumbent government since 1993. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power in Rajasthan with Vasundhara Raje Scindia as Chief Minister since 2013. Ground reports suggest that the Congress is well placed to defeat the ruling BJP government, with visible signs of disenchantment especially against Ms. Scindia. Results of various by-elections held for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats over the past year too suggest that the Congress is regaining lost ground. It is important to note that the BJP has lost all the by-elections in Rajasthan held in the past one year.
Reality check
But the question remains, are the results of by-elections a good indicator of the mood of the voters of Rajasthan across the State? Can the Congress bounce back to power only because people are unhappy with the Chief Minister? Or does the Congress need to present its agenda to mobilise voters around its promise of better governance? There is hardly any doubt that many voters are unhappy with how the Chief Minister has run the government during the last five years. Even sections of the BJP rank and file are unhappy with her. But it may not be easy for the Congress to win the election in Rajasthan only on the hope that voters disenchanted with the ruling party will eventually vote for it in the direct electoral contest against the BJP. Some voters will certainly shift from the BJP to the Congress, but it may take more than that to win.
The Congress needs an 8% swing in its favour to defeat the BJP. Rajasthan has seen such huge swings only on three occasions. In the 1977 Assembly elections the Janata Party defeated the Congress by an almost 19% vote margin. In the 1998 Assembly elections the Congress defeated the BJP by a margin of more than 11%. And in the last Assembly election in 2013 the BJP left behind the Congress by about 12% of the votes. All other changes of government in the State have taken place with a very small shift of votes from one party to the other. The question remains, does the Congress have the ability to create an 8-10% swing in its favour? The State Congress president, Sachin Pilot (picture), has been working hard to build the Congress and consolidate the anti-BJP votes in the party’s favour. But the question remains, whether the Congress can defeat the BJP in Rajasthan only by building an anger against the Chief Minister or on whether voters expect something new from the party.
It is also important to note that the smaller players together polled almost a fourth of the total votes in the North Rajasthan and Matsya regions. It is important for the Congress to build some kind of alliance with these smaller players if it wants to upset the BJP’s calculations. Else, by contesting elections alone in Rajasthan, the Congress may be able to pose a serious challenge to the BJP as it happened recently in Gujarat, but it may find it difficult to defeat the BJP government.
Sanjay Kumar is a Professor and currently the Director of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). The views expressed are personal

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