The bypoll results show that the BJP is facing serious anti-incumbency in the state while the Congress is on the road to recovery.
New Delhi: The Rajput anger against Padmaavat, along with the wrath of Muslims and Dalits over alleged hate crimes, seems to have cost the BJP big time in the three by-elections in Rajasthan.
The results show that the BJP is facing serious anti-incumbency in the state while the Congress seems to be on the road to recovery. The latter has won all three seats — Mandalgarh assembly constituency and the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats.
The Congress was routed in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as it failed to win even a single seat in the state which sends 25 MPs to Parliament. It had also been reduced to just 21 seats in the 200-member assembly a year earlier.
But with Rajasthan going to the polls later this year, the bypoll results are being viewed as crucial for both national parties.
Rajputs ‘lost faith’ in BJP
Rajput organisations across the state had appealed to the community to vote against the BJP in the by-elections.
This is for the first time that the Rajputs have gone against the BJP. The community, which accounts for 10 per cent of the electorate in the state, seems to be upset with the party for a variety of reasons.
“A senior Rajput leader like Jaswant Singh was shown the door, and he had to contest as an independent from Barmer,” Giriraj Singh Lotwara, president of the Rajput Mahasabha, told ThePrint.
“The anger was not visible during the 2014 elections, but a continuous attempt by the state government to neglect our community has been taken very seriously this time.”
The simmering tension among the Rajputs escalated last August when the Raj Mahal Palace in Jaipur was sealed by the state government. Maharani Padmini Devi of Jaipur’s royal family took to the streets, along with her supporters, to protest against the BJP government’s move. This despite the fact that her daughter Diya Singh is a BJP MLA.
However, what angered the community across the state was the alleged encounter killing of Anand Pal Singh, a Rajput gangster, in July last year. Over 3 lakh Rajputs across the state gathered at his funeral and demanded a CBI inquiry in the case.
Succumbing to the community’s demand, the state government finally ordered a CBI probe three months later. “It was part of the government’s vendetta against Rajputs, and the community is especially being targeted by the current government,” said Ajit Singh Mamdoli, president of the Rajput Karni Sena.
The controversy over the film Padmaavat is another case in point. Though the Raje government announced a ban on it, the community remained unhappy.
“They announced a ban only after a few other states put a curb on its release,” said Mamdoli.
“Also, if the Supreme Court has left it to the censor board, why didn’t the central government ban it there itself? They just did a drama of banning and releasing the movie,” he added.
Ajmer has over 2.5 lakh Rajput voters, and they played a crucial role in the Congress’s victory.
The Congress had lost this seat by 1.73 lakh votes in 2014. Clearly, Rajput voters switching sides resulted in a huge swing in the Congress’s favour. This new vote bank, which has moved to the Congress for the first time, could help the party gain much more in future elections.
Atrocities on Muslims and Dalits
The rising incidents of violence linked to cow vigilantism and caste pride have shown Rajasthan in poor light in the past few years.
In fact, Alwar was in the news for the alleged lynching of Pehlu Khan in April last year. In December, Mohammad Afrazul was burnt alive in Rajsamand over the allegations of ‘love jihad’; the entire incident was caught on video.
Ajmer has 2.75 lakh Muslim voters, while Alwar has 3.10 lakh Meo Muslims, who seem to have voted against the BJP in these bypolls.
Similarly, the rise in atrocities against Dalits, who account for 7 per cent of the population, has become a major cause of concern. In May 2015, three Dalits were crushed to death under tractors by Jats over a land dispute in Ajmer.
In April last year, a Dalit man was beaten up by upper caste men for riding a horse in Udaipur on the day of his wedding.
In September last year, a Dalit man was killed over petty issues in Sikar.
Dalits and Muslims together form a major chunk of the electorate both in Ajmer and Alwar, and the huge margin of the Congress’s expected victory signifies their voting pattern.
It’s a pattern the BJP would not want to be replicated across the state later this year.