Congress likely to win Ra­jasthan: Exit polls

Polls sug­gest the BJP might suf­fer a bit­ter de­feat af­ter 15 years in power in Mad­hya Pradesh

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

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.

Vishven­dra Singh

(AFP)

Women stand in a queue to cast their vote at a polling sta­tion dur­ing Ra­jasthan’s as­sem­bly elec­tion, in Jodh­pur on Fri­day

(AFP)

Ra­jasthan Chief Minister Va­sund­hara Raje (right) dur­ing an elec­tion rally in Bhilwara dis­trict on Tues­day

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