Debating India

INDIA

Tough elections ahead for Congress

Times of India

Friday 8 August 2003

In the midst of raindrops, which have been described as ’Amrit’ and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the battle lines are drawn between the ruling Congress and the BJP. Its going to be a tough electoral battle this November. But despite the fact that there is practically "no anti incumbency" factor involved with a good monsoon wiping out the miseries of drought, the Congress is facing an uphill task.

In the last Vidhan Sabha election, it was a vote against the leadership of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and the BJP had to pay a very high price for it. This time despite the high popularity graph of Ashok Gehlot and the reasonable, but noteworthy achievement of the government, the party is not in a position to cash in because of the role of the organisation and the party’s MLAs.

The MLAs indulged in politics of "desire" where bureaucrats and police officials, engineers, doctors, teachers and other government employees had their say in appointments and were duly rewarded by the Gehlot government. The MLAs would send their "desire" to the ministers and the ministers would follow it in toto.

The Congress MLAs played havoc with the organisation and promoted their own persons. Only a strong Pradesh Congress could have drawn the dividing line between the organisation and the government, but with a weak leader like Girija Vyas, nothing was accomplished. The AICC now have realised that because of poor organisation and the apathy of the MLAs, good work done by the government has not been well publicised. None other that B.K.Hariprasad, who has extensively toured the state has reported the matter to the AICC.

The party has not been able to resolve the issue related to the Jats. The Jat power needs no introduction as the presence of Jat influence in about 90 seats, where the Jats not only make themselves victors, but also make others victorious. And this includes scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in a small way.

"Jats do not win only because of their strength, but because of the support of the "chhatis kaum (36 communities)." There are about 43 Jats and Bishnoi MLAs in Congress. The BJP nominated Vasundhara Raje as the president of the state unit by posing her primarily as a Jat Ki Bahu. There is a division in the Jat Mahasabha over the issue of supporting Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. It’s a division which should have served as a pointer. But the division turned out to be nothing more than a social event in which only disgruntled or spent forces among the Jats were involved. The real Jats, who could twist the political game are not effected and those who control Jat politics have given a message to their own community that politics is a different cup of tea.

The Jats may not easily desert Congress and join Chautala’s INLD, RLD or BJP. But if they stick to Congress and collectively work for the victory of the party, it would not be without a price. They feel cheated when Paras Ram Maderna was not made Chief Minister and Ashok Gehlot became the choice of the party’s high command. The Jat showed their power in the last Lok Sabha elections when they retaliated raising the reservation issue which saw the Congress biting the dust. Never before the Jats had such wide options as they has now.

The musical chairs used in Haryana politics would be available for them in Rajasthan now. The Jats are clever and are yet to show their card and they also know that Devi Singh Bhati’s Samajik Nyaya Manch and the Bramhin Mahasabha could create problems. The Jats may have to face the wrath of the OBCs like Gujjars, Yadavs, Malis etc. The Congress as on today could boast of the loyalty of just one class- Muslims. The Muslims have no option but to vote for Congress and it’s because of this support that the party can certainly say that it would win 70 seats.

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