After failing to win a single constituency in two straight Lok Sabha elections, the Congress has opened its account in Rajasthan and performing better than expected as, along with allies, it bagged 11 of the state’s 25 Lok Sabha constituencies.

Coupled with a good showing in the Shekhawati region and Eastern Rajasthan, the party gained from allying in three constituencies and voting in the first two phases. Another factor that worked against the BJP was the local sentiment over unemployment as well as reservation and the Constitution, which was leveraged by the Opposition because of the BJP’s “400 paar” slogan.

Did Jat dissatisfaction play a role?

The Congress-led alliance swept the Jat belt, which includes the Shekhawati region. The alliance won Churu, Sikar, Jhunjhunu, and Nagaur, where Jat candidates were in the fray. In total, five of the alliance’s 11 MPs are Jats.

On the ground, there was perceptible anger towards the BJP for several reasons:

  • Dropping sitting Churu MP Rahul Kaswanwho is a Jat.
  • Denying the community the CM or Deputy CM posts, especially given that they are the largest caste group in the state and yet have not had a CM to date.
  • Unrest among farmers and the non-inclusion of the Jats of Bharatpur and Dholpur in the central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
  • Dissatisfaction over the Agnipath scheme. The Shekhawati region is known for sending several young men to the armed forces every year.
  • The treatment of women wrestlers and non-action against Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh.
  • The sidelining of “Jat ki bahu“Vasundhara Raje and the sidelining of the BJP’s first and only Jat state president Satish Poonia, who was removed from the position last year. In contrast, the Congress has had Govind Singh Dotasra, a Jat, as its state president for almost four years now and allied with the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) that is seen as a party of Jats.

The BJP tried to check this dissatisfaction. It inducted Jyoti Mirdha who hails from one of the two influential Mirdha Jat clans last year and then fielded her from Nagaur. Nationally, it allied with the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Jayant Chaudhary, gave a Bharat Ratna to former PM Chaudhary Charan Singh, and during the campaign pointed out how several high-profile Jats such as Jagdeep Dhankar were appointed as Vice President and Kailash Choudhary as Union Minister. Moreover, the BJP also brought over Richpal Mirdha, Vijay Pal Mirdha and Alok Beniwal, all of them Jats, to cushion the community’s perceived anger against the BJP.

Festive offer

While Churu, Jhunjhunu, and Nagaur witnessed a direct Jat versus Jat contest where the alliance won, the alliance banked on the community’s support in other seats too such as Sikar where Amra Ram, the sole CPI(M) candidate, was in the fray and Barmer where Ummeda Ram of the Congress was the candidate. Both of them, who are Jats, also won.

How did eastern Rajasthan help Congress?

Like the Jat belt, the Opposition swept eastern Rajasthan due to the Gujjar-Meena combination and SC and minority-dominated pockets in the region. The Congress’s Harish Chandra Meena won from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, Murari Lal Meena from Dausa, Bhajan Lal Jatav from Karauli-Dholpur, and Sanjana Jatav won from Bharatpur. Thus, two each went to ST and SC candidates.

The region is considered a Sachin Pilot stronghold and both Harish Meena and Murari Meena, as well as Brijendra Ola in Shekhawati’s Jhunjhunu, among others, are considered close to him. Both Harish and Murari directly gained from the Gujjar-Meena combination in the region.

In 2018 too, when the Congress touched the halfway mark five years after falling to an all-time low of 21 Assembly seats, significant gains in eastern Rajasthan helped the party. Both Bhajan Lal Jatav, a sitting minister in the Ashok Gehlot government, and first-time candidate Sanjana Jatav lost the Assembly elections last year. However, because of the Opposition campaign about reservation, among other reasons, SCs seem to have flocked towards the Congress. The BJP, in part, managed to turn around the narrative subsequently but by then Rajasthan had already voted.

What role did Congress allies play?

Unlike the 2014 and 2019, the Congress gave three seats to alliance partners in the state. The move paid off as RLP’s Hanuman Beniwal from Nagaur, Amra Ram, and Bharat Adivasi Party’s (BAP) Raj Kumar Roat from Banswara won.

Amra Ram polled just over 31,000 votes for a 2.36% vote share in Sikar five years ago. In the Assembly elections last year, he polled close to 20,000 votes. Now, having received over 6.5 lakh votes, Amra Ram seems to have gained significantly from the unrest in the Jat belt, securing 50.68% of the votes.

In Banswara and the surrounding areas, tribal consolidation has been going on for quite some time now. The BAP, which emerged from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), performed better than its predecessor and won three seats in last year’s Assembly elections, up from the BTP’s two in the 2018 Assembly polls. Well aware of the tribal assertion, the Congress opted to leave the seat for the BAP despite opposition from local party workers, and its candidate Arvind Damor, who refused to withdraw his candidature.

Allying with the RLP also helped check the division of the Jat vote – in Assembly elections last year, scores of RLP candidates had damaged the prospects of both Congress and BJP on several seats.

What other reasons can explain the result?

A line often repeated across the state, including by Congress workers, was that it was people who were fighting the election, not so much the Opposition. “This election became NDA government versus the people… So this is a common man’s win. And the results are in the interest of the country,” said former CM Ashok Gehlot.

The reasons for this sense of disaffection ranged from unemployment to fears among certain communities about reservation and the Constitution. Also, the excessive noise around identity politics came at the cost of issues such as inflation and rising fuel prices.

Another reason is that the BJP was confident, almost complacent, of its candidate selection while Congress experimented in several seats, also accommodating allies in three. Moreover, established state BJP leaders have been finding their political capital increasingly diminished, leading to the party’s comparatively disjointed campaign unlike in 2014 and 2019, when it was united under former CM Vasundhara Raje.