Rajasthan is a unique, one of its kind, state in India which has always been difficult to classify or typecast into a particular geography or demography. For instance, when the rest of India was divided into different territories by the British – a classification still followed by the Bollywood film distribution business – Rajasthan could not be fit into any of the zones and an independent territory had to be carved out purely for Rajasthan. Thus Rajasthan has been competing as an equal with larger geographies of India spanning multiple states, like say, CP-Berar (Central Provinces and the erstwhile Berar region) or East Punjab (Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, parts of Jammu and Delhi etc.) or even the powerful Bombay circuit (Maharashtra, Gujarat, and parts of Karnataka). It is probably a metaphor of a hopelessly romantic lone Rajput warrior taking on legions of armies in the battlefield.
In the modern era, Rajasthan is classified as a western state but it acts as a bridge between the west, north and central India, thereby deriving socio-political ethos from all the three zones yet managing to remain unique. Unlike her western cousins, Rajasthan neither has Gujarat’s business sense nor Maharashtra’s organization skills (the co-operative model that is). Also unlike her heartland cousins, she has never really been Mandalized and still remains an island of feudalistic-royal over lordship.
Politically though, Rajasthan is a conformist state with neatly divided loyalties and alternate term anti-incumbencies. A group of states in India which have a typical electoral behavior of electing alternate party governments every 5 years can be classified as alternating states, which include – Tamil Nadu and Kerala from south, Himachal, Punjab, and Rajasthan from north-west etc. This electoral phenomenon is a vestige of the 90s anti-incumbent India and has already been challenged by Punjab last year. Rajasthan still follows this alternating state pattern and it remains to be seen if Ashok Gehlot would be able to break this deadlock on December 8th.
This is another state where BJP has had a strong base since Jan Sangh days and has been the only real alternative to the Congress brand of politics. Rajasthan is widely believed to be the laboratory of “Rights-based” dole schemes prioritized by the trio of Sonia, Sen and Drèze. To that extent the Rajasthan verdict of 2013 will tell us if a purely welfarist economy without any focus on creating long term infrastructure is electorally viable, despite corruption. Therefore Rajasthan is a true semifinal to the 2014 battle where not just two adverse political ideologies but also two opposite economic visions would be contesting to capture India.
For the last two decades, since 1993, this state has witnessed a bipolar polity where the third set of political forces only play the role of a spoiler for one or the other party, depending on who is in power and facing anti-incumbency. The gap between Congress and BJP, which was much wider earlier has been narrowing with each passing election like a spring that is recoiling. 2013 election will either further recoil this vote-share to produce a close race or will be a breakthrough election that will uncoil the vote-shares from the loop and also in the process take the state out of the electoral vestiges.
If that is the pan-Rajasthan political story, the real devil lies in the detail of sub-regional electoral nuances. The highly localized nature of Indian elections do not give us political analysts the leeway to narrate the story of a state in broad beautiful strokes of preconceived stereotypes, for every smaller division of a state has a story to tell. Thus Rajasthan is also further subdivided into 4 major zones – Shekhawati and Bikaner divisions making up North Rajasthan, Dhundhad, Matsyanchal and Haroti constituting Central Rajasthan, Mewar as South Rajasthan and finally Marwar as West Rajasthan.
In broad electoral terms, we can surmise that in the run up to the Sunday election, there is a BJP wave in West Rajasthan and South Rajasthan, while North Rajasthan is also tilting towards BJP. The real battlefield is Central Rajasthan which should decide who wins 2013. If this overall analysis does not quench your political thirst, then go ahead and read further.
Central Rajasthan – Dhundhad, Matsyanchal and Haroti zones
This is by far the most populous region of the state and also includes the state capital region of Jaipur. It is made up of almost entire central and eastern parts of Rajasthan and is therefore politically very significant. This is the region which witnessed the Gopalgarh riots and there is still some amount of residual religious polarization. This is also the region where Meenas exert their political power and Kirodilal Meena would play a significant electoral role. This is also the region that has many urban pockets where the maximum impact of criminal tendencies of certain Congress ministers like the rape accused Babulal Nagar will be seen electorally.
The 3 zones of Central Rajasthan are made up of 13 districts and 83 assembly constituencies. Jaipur alone has 19 assembly seats which were equally divided between Congress and BJP with 9 seats each in the 2008 election (1 seat was won by “others”). Only 5 of these 19 seats are seeing a multi-polar contest, while there is a direct fight in 14 seats this time in 2013. BJP is facing rebels and internal dissensions in 3 assembly seats (Amber, Jhotwara and Shahpura), it is also facing the problem of some old leaders and party workers not working actively for the party because they have been neglected. Then there was this unnecessary controversy of Narendra Modi cancelling his rally from Shahpura at the last moment which has led to a great deal of rumors about the cancellation being done at the behest of Gujarat governor, Kamala Beniwal, whose son is contesting on the Congress ticket in Shahpura.
On the other hand Congress is facing dissensions and rebellions in 4 assembly seats (Malviyanagar, Kotputli, Jhotwara and Chaksu), but the biggest problem for the party is its inability to answer the voter’s questions regarding Babulal Nagar, whose brother has been nominated by the party to fight from Dudu. Another major worry for the Congress party is Sachin Pilot’s open opposition to the Gujjar Congress candidate of Viratnagar, Ramchandra Sardhana, which has enraged the Gujjar community of the entire region.
Adarshnagar, Hawamahal and Kishanpol are the three minority dominated areas of Jaipur where there is significant polarization of votes and BJP is ahead in at least 2 of them. Malviya Nagar and Civil Lines are two keenly contested seats between powerful political war horses and may go to the wire. On the whole in Jaipur, the atmosphere is one of anti-incumbency against the Congress and also consequently pro-BJP.
In the other 5 districts of Dhundhad – Ajmer, Sawai Madhopur, Karauli, Tonk and Dausa – the contests are multi-cornered in many seats due to the Meena factor, which, contrary to perceptions, is affecting both BJP as well as Congress, but maybe the former is affected a bit more. Kirodilal Meena himself is contesting from Lalsot, while Golma Devi is contesting from Mahwa. For the BJP, Sawai Madhopur seat is prestigious as Diya Kumari is contesting from here against Kirodilal Meena. For the Congress, rebels are playing spoilsport here, especially because many of the rebels of 2008 have been given official tickets this time – Tonk is a case in point where Saud Sayeedi is hurting the Congress candidate Zakia. Overall in Dhundhad, BJP and Congress are almost on an equal footing.
In the 3 districts of Matsyanchal – Bharatpur, Alwar and Dholpur – which contribute 22 seats to the assembly, Hindu-Muslim polarization is still a strong undercurrent due to Gopalgarh (Bharatpur) riots. Meena factor is also working here and could be the decider in at least 2-3 seats. Alwar used to be a Congress stronghold and Dholpur a BJP favorite whereas Bharatpur may once again vote for the BJP this time. In this region BJP is perceptibly far ahead of Congress and the Meena factor may actually affect Congress more adversely than BJP.
The 4 districts of Haroti – Kota, Bundi, Baran and Jhalawar – contribute 17 seats to the Vidhan Sabha. In 13 of these seats there is a direct contest between Congress and BJP and only in about 4 seats there is a multi-cornered contest. For the Congress party, which had surprisingly performed better than expected in 2008, the big challenge is to maintain its performance in this election too. The strength of BJP here can be gauged by the fact that the party has won some 5-6 seats for at least 6 election cycles (Jhalarpatan, Ramanujganj-Mandi, Kota etc.) This time too both the parties seem to be evenly poised, just like 2008, although BJP may have slight advantage.
Of the 75 seats of Central Rajasthan, 15 are classified as battleground seats and whoever wins the maximum number of these seats will emerge on top of this region. In the 2008 election, both the parties were on an equal footing in this region, with a slight edge for Congress. This template was reflected even in the battleground seats as Congress had won 8 out of the 15 seats and BJP had won 7. This time, rebel candidates, Meena factor and the levels of anti-incumbency will decide who wins the battleground. With BJP leading in all other zones, this is the important area for Congress which is banking heavily on others cutting BJP votes.
CSDS opinion poll survey indicates the Mood Quotient of Central Rajasthan as “BJP leading Congress comfortably”. AC-Nielsen opinion poll survey of this region gives Congress 34 seats, BJP 40 seats and others 9 seats.
South Rajasthan – Mewar
This is really the bell-weather zone of Rajasthan since the last 4 election cycles, for it keeps alternating between winning parties every 5 years. Whichever party wins Mewar forms the government in the state by entering the revolving door; in fact, even more specifically, Salumber assembly seat of Mewar Zone is termed as the bell-weather seat of Rajasthan for its ability to always vote towards the winning side since 1977.
Mewar zone is made up of 35 assembly constituencies of 7 districts – Udaipur, Dangarpur, Bhilwara, Rajsamand, Chhittorgarh, Banswara & Pratapgarh. This is a region of direct fight between the two national parties, therefore in 27 seats Congress and BJP are pitted against each other, while there are 6 strong rebels in the fray in the other seats, of whom 5 are from the Congress and 1 from the BJP. JDU has its presence in two seats of Banswara district and it will decide who will emerge victorious. Even though national media talks about this tribal region as the core zone of the Meena leader, Kirodilal Meena, his NPP is almost completely absent here.
This is Gulabchand Katariya territory for the BJP, where the RSS strongman wields his considerable influence. He has been campaigning here vigorously for all BJP candidates and addressing at least 3-4 public meetings every day. Since it is also attached to the neighboring Gujarat, Narendra Modi is quite popular here and has attracted a lot of crowds for his big rallies. Congress on the other hand has a herculean task of defying history and winning Mewar for two successive terms. It also has many rebels in the fray to contend with. In the Congress, this is C.P. Joshi territory, for he represents Bhilwara in the Lok Sabha and has managed to get tickets to a large number of his followers in this region. Thus Mewar is the fight of the number two’s in both BJP and Congress.
Ground reports in the run-up to the election suggest a reversal of fortunes for both the BJP and Congress in Mewar where they had both won 9 and 24 seats respectively in the 2008 elections. Although Congress had an edge at the start, it has lost most of its advantage after ticket distribution, partly of its own making and partly due to a strong BJP campaign. The most important factor in this region is BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who is enjoying unprecedented popularity in this region, which is possibly far higher than his popularity in his home state, Gujarat.
Of the 35 seats in Mewar, 6 are classified as battleground seats which will decide who wins this region on Sunday. In 2008, Congress had won 4 out of those 6 battleground seats, while BJP had only narrowly scraped through in 2 seats.
CSDS poll survey, which was done in the third week of October captures the Mood Quotient of Mewar thus, “Congress has an edge over BJP”, which is realistic for that timeframe, but things have changed since then and we get an inkling of that in the AC Nielsen survey which was done much later in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November. As per Nielsen survey, BJP is getting 24 seats, Congress 10 seats and others 1 seat in Mewar.
West Rajasthan – Marwar
This is another zone that is seeing a BJP-Modi wave in this election despite being Gehlot territory. Once again this is also a direct fight zone between the two main players and there is hardly any third political pole. This is also the zone where voting is mostly on caste lines which makes it very important to get your caste arithmetic right. Of the 43 seats, BJP and Congress are pitted against each other directly in 33 seats and there are some rebels in the other 10 seats who have made it a multi-cornered fight.
For the Congress party the big worry is the anger of Jats after ticket distribution, for many Jat leaders were denied tickets and to add to their woes, Modi is being seen as a messiah of the OBCs and Jats in particular. Another error by Congress in Marwar is not allocating more than 2 tickets in the entire region to Rajputs, which has pushed the Rajputs further into the opposition camp. Rajpurohits and Meghwals are also bitter with the ruling party for their shabby treatment and will affect the party’s chances in at least 2 districts.
For the BJP, Seervi samaj and Patel votes are a cause of worry. There are also a number of BJP rebels in the fray who are hurting the party in at least 5-6 seats. BJP’s ability to sustain its support base among minority votes in Nagaur district will also play an important role in the eventual outcome. Once again, the Narendra Modi factor is working heavily in favor of the BJP even in this region.
Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Nagaur, Jalore, Pali and Sirohi districts between them make up the 43 assembly seats of Mewar. There was a tie in this region last time when Congress had won 20 and BJP 19, while others had managed to capture 4 seats. Of these 43 assembly constituencies, 10 belong to battleground category and whoever wins a majority of these 10 seats will have an advantage in this region. CSDS opinion poll survey done in the third week of October gives us a Mood Quotient of “BJP wave in this region currently”, which has probably only increased with the Modi campaign. But, AC-Nielsen poll survey has far more conservative findings from Marwar as it gives BJP 21 seats and Congress 19 seats, suggesting a more even contest, which is surprisingly contrary to all the signals emanating from the ground.
North Rajasthan – Shekhawati and Bikaner zones
Shekhawati is made up of three districts – Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu – which contribute 21 assembly seats to the Vidhan Sabha, whereas Bikaner divisions is composed of 18 seats of three districts – Bikaner, Ganganagar and Hanumangarh. This is a region where Jats form a powerful demographic component and also an en-block vote that decides the winners in many seats.
Traditionally, including the last election of 2008, the Jat vote-bank was tilted towards the Congress, whereas BJP was supposed to garner the Rajput vote, but this time the Jat vote in the entire region is in a flux and it would be difficult for the Congress to retain this vote-bank. For the BJP, the main worry is to contain the rebels, especially in Sikar and Jhunjunu districts where the party had only won 2 seats out of 15 in 2008. If the BJP manages to garner both the upper caste as well as OBC votes, then it can potentially sweep this region.
Bikaner district has been a BJP stronghold and the party has to maintain its strength area if it wants to emerge victorious in this region. Devsingh Bhati, the 7 time BJP MLA (from 4 different parties) is the key to Bikaner politics and he is said to be working tirelessly to encourage all the party workers to fight the battle. Congress on the other hand is trying hard to sell its welfare schemes as having benefited North Rajasthan but hasn’t met with great success. About 3-4 months ago Congress had an edge in this region, but with the polling day fast approaching it is BJP which is emerging stronger.
Of the 39 seats, 6 are classified as battleground seats and whoever wins a majority of these will have an upperhand in North Rajasthan. In 2008 Congress had won 4 out of the 6 battleground seats, while BJP had won only 2. CSDS Mood Quotient describes north Rajasthan as “BJP leading Congress”. Whereas AC-Nielsen poll survey gives actual seat projections as BJP winning 20 seats, Congress winning 12 seats and others winning 7 seats.
Five Forty Three Pre-Poll Seat Projections:
One seat, Churu has been countermanded due to the death of BSP candidate, so we are not including that in our projections which is now effective only for 199 assembly segments. We have opinion poll data from 4 out of the 7 regions and the other three regions are projected based on assembly segment-wise ground reports. Opinion poll survey shows biggest swing in Marwar region, where there is a 9% swing in favor of BJP, while in Mewar there is a 5% swing in favor of the BJP.
- Vasundhara Raje Scindhia is all set to be the next Chief Minister of Rajasthan which is in the grip of a Vasundhara wave right now. Her 8 month long tour of the state is reminiscent of Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy’s campaign in Andhra Pradesh in 2004 which not only changed the fortunes of his party in his state but also became the harbinger of change in national politics.
- Rajasthan is seeing a potential swing of 3 to 6% in favor of the BJP. At the lower level (3% swing), BJP should get a simple majority as projected by our own survey, but with a 6% swing in its favor, BJP could cross the 130 mark and get an absolute (2/3rd) majority in the state. If BJP achieves the latter, it would be a breakthrough election and get the state out of the vote-share loop of alternate anti-incumbencies.
- It is very unlikely that the Congress party would mount a rearguard fight to recover lost ground and upset all the waves to win this election, but we will keep an eye on any drastic changes on polling day.
[Note: Opinion Poll Survey was conducted by an organization affiliated to Psephologist Chinmay Krovvidi in Dhundhad, Haroti, Vangad, Mewar and Marwar regions. Seat projections, data points and other valuable inputs were shared by Chinmay. Ground reports were sourced from various social activists, local journalists and other party workers from 6 districts of different zones of Rajasthan.]