BJP tam­per­ing with EVMs in MP and Ch­hat­tis­garh, al­leges Cong

Lo­cal po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts say the rul­ing BJP may re­tain votes in Ra­jasthan’s ur­ban ar­eas with sup­port from up­per castes while the Congress could sweep ru­ral parts

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE - SANTWANA BHAT­TACHARYA

THE Pink City is not quite in a pink mood. It has lit­tle to do with traffic snarls, the grime and dust, or such ba­sic is­sues.

The As­sem­bly elec­tions have left Jaipur rather deeply troubled and di­vided, turn­ing even in­di­vid­ual vot­ers into al­most a split per­son­al­ity. Such is the in­tense dilemma of the com­pet­ing pull of the two slo­gans “Ek hi naara ek hi naam: Jai Shri

Ram, Jai Shri Ram” (One slo­gan, one name...) and “Na jaat,

na paat, is baar haath” (No caste, no creed, only the hand).

It’s no or­di­nary state elec­tion af­ter all. It can al­ter the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal his­tory. Many have made their choice, but not just out of po­lit­i­cal affin­ity. Each one is aware of and alive to the com­plex­i­ties of the ar­gu­ments on both sides.

“The Congress is try­ing to turn us around 180 de­grees,” says Ra­jesh Goel, an old Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sup­porter adding, “And we would have read­ily done that too, had Ashok Gehlot been de­clared CM can­di­date.”

Goel runs a small out­let of arte­facts and sta­tionery at Johri Bazar, fa­mous for its faux kun­dan jew­ellery, Band­hani sa­rees, hand-em­broi­dered skirts and du­pat­tas. A quintessen­tial Jaipuria — in short run­ning a touristy par­adise for quick bar­gains — he voices all the core doubts that in­fect the typ­i­cal bipo­lar voter here.

“I’m an orig­i­nal Swadeshi

Sanghi (coin­ing a word) but Gehlot is a dif­fer­ent kind of man. He’s a grass­roots leader. Look at this place. He built it and spruced it up,” he says, point­ing to the pic­turesque arched cor­ri­dor along the bazaar.

The only rea­son he will cast his vote for the BJP is be­cause the Congress could not pro­ject a clear leader. “Who knows who’ll be on the CM’s chair? What change are we opt­ing for then?” he says, mak­ing no bones about his dis­ap­proval of the in­cum­bent though.

Some neigh­bour­ing shopown­ers gather round — all medium or small traders. All of them agree on one thing. “It’s not the farm­ers only... or the an­gry Ra­jputs” who are against Chief Min­is­ter Va­sund­hara Raje, “but ar­ti­sans too”. This vi­tal com­po­nent of Ra­jasthan’s life got “no gov­ern­ment sup­port,” they cho­rus. “She just van­ished be­hind the walls af­ter win­ning...” Goel adds.

Ajay Agar­wal, owner of the pop­u­lar Laxmi Misthan Bhan­dar, a cen­tury-old eatery in Jaipur, is equally clear. “This time it’s Congress.” He hails the Goods and Ser­vices Tax (GST) as a good step, as against DeMo, which he calls a mis­cal­cu­la­tion. “But that’s not the point. We need a gov­ern­ment which com­mu­ni­cates with us and a CM who’s ac­ces­si­ble...” he feels.

The length and breadth of Johri Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar nearby are starkly di­vided on po­lit­i­cal lines. If one shop-owner pro­claims that he’ll vote for change, another would rather strengthen “Modiji’s hand” and not for an “un­known hand”.

Com­ing from a more up­marke t a mbi e n c e, R a nv i j ay Rathore, who runs a chain of her­itage ho­tels and is a mem­ber of the Jaipur hote­liers as­so­ci­a­tion, cites the fact that the BJP holds all eight as­sem­bly seg­ments of Jaipur city. “It’s un­likely they’ll shed too many,” he quips.

“For us, in the ho­tel busi­ness, the GST has worked out fine. At 18 per cent, it’s ac­tu­ally one per cent less than what we were charg­ing our cus­tomers ear­lier. Then, the 5 per cent ser­vice tax at restau­rants is much lesser than the 12 per cent charged ear­lier... some nag­ging prob­lems like the process of tax-fil­ing, etc will be there, but even­tu­ally it’s for the good.”

Rathore has lit­tle rea­son to root for change. The tourism and hospi­tal­ity busi­ness, a key part of the state’s econ­omy in which the erst­while roy­alty and feu­dal com­mu­nity is heav­ily in­vested, is not do­ing too badly. The sec­tor saw a record 29 per cent jump in tourist in­flow in 2017-18 in Jaipur alone.

Jaipur it­self has been a fortress — or a ‘ garh’ as they call it here — for the BJP from even be­fore 2013-14. And then the Modi wave swept Ra­jasthan, dec­i­mat­ing the Congress in just about all the five broad re­gions — Mar­war, Dhun­dar-Mat­syaMer­wara (from Al­war-Bharat­pur in the east to Jaipur and Ajmer), Ha­rauti (a south­east­ern belt with towns like Kota and Bundi), Shekhawati-Ka­mand in the north and Me­war in the south.

The eight ru­ral seats around Jaipur how­ever, were not all saf­fron. The Congress al­ways re­tained these pock­ets. At present, this whole swathe ap­pears very restive. Farm­ers claim they did not get the min­i­mum sup­port price (MSP) for ei­ther the tra­di­tional crop of ba­jra (mil­let) or for genhu (wheat).

They also had to sell their in­terim crop of chana (gram/ pulses) cheap. Then, the liq­uid­ity crunch, an un­re­spon­sive sys­tem, high in­put costs, long queues for urea (“Aad­har card maangte hai, phir bhi nahin

milta (we don’t get it de­spite fur­nish­ing Aad­har cards),” is the re­frain), and fi­nally, GST on farm equip­ment.

“They have now re­alised they must get or­gan­ised, vote and protest col­lec­tively,” says col­lege stu­dent San­jeev Singh.

Still, the gen­eral con­sen­sus seems to be that the BJP may re­tain the ur­ban vote, while the Congress will take the ru­ral. An­a­lysts be­lieve the Congress may, at the most, pick up a few ur­ban seats, like Hawa Ma­hal and Kis­han­pole in Jaipur, be­cause of a size­able mi­nor­ity vote (all the tem­ple-hop­ping not­with­stand­ing!).

A group of first-time vot­ers, col­lege stu­dents at a cof­fee hub in Jaipur, seemed to be poised be­tween the two par­ties.

Some among them also talk about the need to ad­dress ‘ru­ral dis­tress’. It’s also the kind of crowd that thinks Sachin Pi­lot is rather “cute”.

PTI

The per­cep­tion re­gard­ing Va­sund­hara Raje is that she is in­ac­ces­si­ble to the elec­torate |

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.