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