Rajasthan Elections 2018: Congress sitting pretty, BJP is all nerves

Jaipur: The Congress, which was looking at the bottom of the barrel after the 2013 electoral rout, has rebounded with vigour and has an edge in Rajasthan, which goes to poll on Friday. Anti-incumbency is at work and the state has a track record of voting out the party in power every five years.

The Congress has risen like a Phoenix to push the ruling BJP on the back foot despite its meagre resources, under the joint leadership of PCC president Sachin Pilot and the former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The party is tipped to win in the Satta market as well, which has given it up to 130 seats in a House of 200; and no more than 50 to 60 seats to the BJP. But while the Congress is certain to form the government, the bigger challenge will be deciding who will be the CM — Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot?

A macro view of the various regions reveals that the BJP is trying to retain its vote shares against the Congress. The third front has an innocuous presence and the rebels are likely to upset the applecart of the ruling BJP more than the Congress. For the BJP, Western Rajasthan, which has given three Chief Ministers and which has 43 seats, where the Congress could win barely three in 2013, may be a tough nut to crack. In all the seven districts in western Rajasthan, the BJP is not able to stand up to the sustained aggressive campaign of the Congress, which has only one star campaigner in Rahul Gandhi.

It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP supremo Amit Shah have been able to salvage the situation for the BJP – and to what extent. In the northern part, which has six districts, the BJP won 25 out of 39 seats, the Congress six and ‘others’ eight. Cabinet ministers Rajendra Singh Rathor and Dr Ram Pratap are in the fray, while for the Congress the main candidates are Rameshwar Dudi and B D Kalla. Here, too, the Congress is well placed with BJP rebels playing the spoilsport. So, that takes care of Sriganganagar, Bikaner, Hanumangarh, Churu, Sikar and Jhunjhunu districts.

In 2013, the Congress performance was pathetic in Central Rajasthan — Dausa, Ajmer, Tonk and in Jaipur district. This time, in Tonk, chief ministerial aspirant Sachin Pilot is pitted against the only BJP Muslim candidate, Yunus Khan. Here, the BJP is finding the going tough in 20 seats. Even in the saffron stronghold of Jaipur, the BJP, which had a tally of 16 last time, is finding it an uphill battle in all the 19 seats.

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