In the last 30 years, Rajasthan has never voted for an incumbent government, and this trend continues in the 2023 assembly polls. Even the much-hyped social welfare schemes and alleged appeasement politics could not work in favour of the ruling Congress.
The high voting percentage in the Rajasthan assembly elections predominantly manifests massive polarisation of Muslim and ST/SC voters in Rajasthan and mass rejection of caste-based census proposed by the Congress party to appease voters on a caste basis.
In a polarised contest, BJP consolidates Hindu votes
Despite its alleged appeasement policy, the ruling Congress fielded 15 Muslim candidates in most of the Muslim-dominant constituencies in Rajasthan. A large chunk of Muslims voted for the Congress party. The Congress party successfully won the Adarsh Nagar and Kishanpole seats by electing Rafeeq Khan and Amin Kagzi despite BJP’s intensive campaign and the PM’s mega road show. The BJP could barely win the Hawa Mahal seat with a slender margin. At the same time, BJP’s constant allegations of appeasement politics by Congress consolidated Hindu voters on some other seats in its favour. This is also one of the reasons that Congress lost on several major Muslim-dominant constituencies like Hawa Mahal, Pokaran, Tijara, Sheo, Kamaan, Pushkar, Sawai Madhopur, and Ajmer North.
In a highly polarised contest on the Tijara seat, Congress party’s Imran Khan was defeated by BJP’s MP Mahant Balak Nath. Dominated by Meo Muslims, the seat had recorded the second-highest voter turnout in Rajasthan.
Another keenly watched seat, Pokhran, which had recorded the highest voting turnout of 87.79 percent, has also gone to the BJP. The contest was between two religious figures - Mahant Pratap Puri of BJP and Congress party’s Shale Mohammad, son of Ghazi Fakeer.
Chief minister’s advisor Danish Abrar lost to BJP’s Dr Kirori Lal Meena on the Sawai Madhopur seat. The apparent polarisation of Muslim votes has led to the win of independent candidates on Deedwana and Sheo seats, while Congress party’s Zubair Khan has won from the Ramgarh seat.
Communal tensions helped BJP?
Analysts believe that incidents like the beheading of Kanhiya Lal in Udaipur, communal tension in Jaipur, Karoli, Bhilwara, Jodhpur, and other places strengthened BJP’s Hindutva agenda across the state. Other factors that drove the Hindutva agenda in Rajasthan were constantly hitting Congress on appeasement politics, tickets to four saints and no Muslim candidate, and sending firebrand leaders like UP CM Yogi Adityanath and Assam CM Hemanta Sarma for campaigns on as many seats as possible.
All these factors equally worked on 59 constituencies reserved for ST-SC candidates. The maximum chunk of ST-SC voters exercised their franchise in favor of BJP or regional parties like Bharatiya Adivasi Party, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Rastriya Lok Dal, and prominent candidates, irrespective of the party line. Out of 59 reserved seats (34 SC and 25 ST), BJP was leading on around 65 percent of seats. A major outcome is the growing influence of the Bharatiya Adivasi Party, which affected the result on most of the tribal-dominated seats. Rajkumar Roat of the party won by a massive margin of around 70 thousand. Notably, Congress had won 19 SC-reserved seats and 12 ST-reserved seats in 2018, compared to the BJP’s 12 and 9 seats respectively.
Voters reject Congress' caste-based census
Interestingly, Congress’ radical shift towards wooing backward castes by demanding a caste-based census has been outrightly rejected by the voters in the state assembly election. The assembly election 2023 results in Rajasthan somewhere indicate that the majority of the OBC voters opted to go with BJP, while the rest were evenly distributed among the winning candidates in each constituency.
During election rallies, the Congress party had raised this demand of a caste-based census several times, but voters in Rajasthan turned out to be mature enough to understand all the pros and cons around it. In such a scenario, Congress might have to rework on the idea before BJP takes the lead in 2024.