Congress likely to win Rajasthan: Exit polls
Polls suggest the BJP might suffer a bitter defeat after 15 years in power in Madhya Pradesh
Exit polls on Friday predicted a Congress party sweep in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan and a Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) win in the southern state of Telangana.
The polls also gave the Congress party an edge over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a fiercely-contested battle in the central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
The surveys predicted that Mizoram, the only northeast state now with the Congress party, may see a hung assembly.
Surveys by media organisations and agencies predicted a Congress party victory in Rajasthan, continuing a trend in a state that has not re-elected the party in power for a second term in the last 20 years.
In the 200-seat Rajasthan As- nothing unusual in Rajasthan, a state famous for its forts and grand palaces with peacockfilled lawns.
It is one of India’s few regions where the local royal families going back centuries - and outlasting British rule - have flourished in democratic politics since independence in 1947.
Raje (65) is the daughter of a former maharaja and married an erstwhile ruler of another dynasty. Her main challenger in her constituency is Manvendra Singh, another blue blood from western Rajasthan.
Another is Siddhi Kumari, also a princess and a two-time state lawmaker who lives in a wing of her ancestral palace in Bikaner around 340km from the state capital Jaipur.
The rest, its walls decorated with family portraits of resplen- lightly. But the trust that is there has to be earned every day. I take it very seriously and work every day,” she said.
Ayodhya Prasad Gaur, author of a book on one of the state’s leading royal families, said the nobility’s popularity had to do with their ‘ permanence’ compared to ordinary politicians who just ‘come and go’.
“The erstwhile rulers of Jodhpur still receive a wedding invite - just like kings of earlier times - from hundreds if not thousands of people in the region each year. And they maintain that relationship by sending a token amount as a gift for every invite they receive,” Gaur said.
“Family name only works in the first election,” cautioned Vishvendra Singh however, a Congress party lawmaker running in the state election from the erstwhile royal family of Bharatpur, around 190km from Jaipur. “I have been in politics for three decades and have been elected multiple times as parliamentarian and a state lawmaker. I am in constant touch with the people, meet everyone and that is what works in politics,” he said.
Raj Singh, a voter in Bikaner, said he voted for Kumari in the last two elections. “Unlike ordinary politicians, (royals) won’t indulge in local schemes to make money or shield criminals as that could tarnish the family name,” he said.
Raje, representing Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), swept to power in a landslide in 2013, much like Modi did nationally a year later.
But her personal popularity has waned, with critics calling her aloof and autocratic and out of touch with the interests of ordinary people. Like Modi, she never holds press conferences.
Her government’s handling of caste protests and problems boosting investment and creating jobs have also gone down badly with voters.
“There are so many things that were promised but not delivered,” said Shiv Prakash, a voter in Jodhpur.
The contests are seen as a dry run for 2019, with Modi and his likely rival from the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi - scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty - both campaigning actively.
The most closely watched will be Madhya Pradesh, home to 73mn people, where polls suggest BJP might suffer a bitter defeat after 15 years in power.
Women stand in a queue to cast their vote at a polling station during Rajasthan’s assembly election, in Jodhpur on Friday
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje (right) during an election rally in Bhilwara district on Tuesday