Rajasthan poll outcome test of Raje’s performance

December 6th, 2008 - 11:11 am ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, Dec 6 (IANS) The votes polled to elect a 200-seat assembly in Rajasthan, India’s largest state area-wise, will be counted Monday and the outcome will be a test of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) claim to good governance. The BJP, with 120 legislators, went to the polls on the plank of the Vasundhara Raje government’s performance.

The outcome in Rajasthan and four other states, which went to the polls over a month, will be crucial since these elections are considered to be a referendum for the bigger Lok Sabha battle in early 2009.

The counting will begin at 8 a.m. and will decide the fate of as many as 2,193 candidates in the sprawling desert state. Most of the results are expected by late afternoon.

While the BJP fought the elections on its development plank, the Congress targeted the Vasundhara Raje government with allegations of corruption. The BJP also raised the issue of the Congress-led government at the centre failing to check terrorism and curb price rise.

The Congress, on the other hand, raised local issues and its campaign revolved around corruption.

The results would decide if the people believed in the BJP’s development claim or the Congress’ corruption allegation.

The outcome will also be a test for Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party. Mayawati won the 2007 elections in Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, bagging over half of the 403 seats in the state assembly and hers was the first party to get complete majority in the state after 16 years.

She expects to emerge a kingmaker in the Lok Sabha elections by winning a large number of the total 80 parliamentary seats from the state.

Though the BSP had won only two out of the 124 assembly seats it contested in the 2003 elections, it was able to increase its vote percentage from 2.17 percent in 1998, when it fought for the first time in the state, to 3.98 percent in 2003.

And if the crowds that Mayawati attracted in her rallies were any indication, the party is set to emerge as a big player in Rajasthan politics too.

As per the election department’s figure, 66.38 percent of 36 million voters cast their votes Thursday to elect the new government.

Political pundits are divided over the outcome. “There does not seem to be an undercurrent for any party; so it has become difficult to predict. But the Congress has indeed given a tough fight to the BJP”, said Vijay Sharma, a political analyst.

He and other pundits believe that the Congress may gain some seats compared to the BJP. At present, the BJP has 120 seats and the Congress 56.

“I feel that Congress would increase its vote percentage from 35.64 in the 2003 elections and the BJP would see a decline from its share of 39.19 percent in 2004″, Sharma said. He said the main reason is that important leaders rebelled against the party and contested as independents.

Though the BJP had a fewer number of rebels than the Congress, there were powerful leaders among them like Kirori Lal Meena, a Meena community leader.

“Historically, voting in excess of 65 percent in Rajasthan works against the ruling party. But this time it is difficult to predict as the process of delimitation has changed entirely or partially the demographics of 188 of the 200 assembly constituencies”, Sharma added.

These assembly elections would also decide the fate of Vasundhara Raje, the chief minister of Rajasthan. The Congress in its campaign had targeted her and at times it appeared to be a fight between the Congress and Raje.

She may consider focussing on national politics if she loses, a source close to Raje said. “She always wanted to be in national politics and she might consider devoting more time on the national scene if she loses,” the source added.

Political pundits are also divided on whether the results would have a bearing on the Lok Sabha polls next year.

While some say it would not as the polls were fought more on state issues than national ones, others feel the winning party would be better placed to face the national battle.

“Whichever party wins in the assembly elections, it will naturally have a psychological edge of a victor in the Lok Sabha battle,” D K Beniwal, a political analyst, said.

Rajasthan has 25 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP had won 21 of these in the 2004 parliamentary elections.

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