Jaipur, April 13 : BJP today emerged victorious in the Dholpur bypoll, trouncing Congress with a huge margin of 38,648 votes and thus sealing Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as the state’s most credible leader.
Dholpur bypoll was necessitated after BSP MLA B L Kushwah was sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in connection with a murder case of 2002. Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Kailash Meghwal terminated Kushwah’s membership from the House on Dec 13, 2016.
Dholpur bypoll held on April 9, had become a prestige point for both BJP and Congress as both its leaders Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and state Congress Chief Sachin Pilot, needed to win it to resurrect and reaffirm each of their own fortunes in the party.
Raje’s win means she remains the undisputed leader of state BJP. Pilot’s win would have catapulted him to Congress’s big league.
Raje closely monitored the bypoll herself, staying back in Dholpur, her home turf. She despatched her senior ministers to different parts of the constituency to create awareness about her welfare programmes and schemes. Past the campaign day, she stayed put in Dholpur, citing medical condition, something which the Congress was not happy about.
Raje’s pick of candidate, Shobharani Kushwah, who is wife of the convicted leader B L Kushwah, was perhaps a setback for many who work relentlessly for the party. There are many in the party and the Opposition Congress who say that BJP could not find a credible leader to be the face of Dholpur, despite it being Raje’s stronghold.
Shobharani is herself said to be an accused, along with her husband, in a chit fund fraud case filed against their financial company. There are complaints of the company having cheated innocent investors by promising high returns on fixed and recurring deposits.
Shobharani won the bypolls securing 91,469 votes and defeating the closest rival and Congress candidate Banwari Lal Sharma by 38,648 votes. With this, BJP’s tally in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly goes to 161.
The state BJP is emphatic as it is said to be highest margin amongst all the 10 bypoll seats in eight states. Out of these 10 seats, BJP won five and won the Dholpur seat with the highest margin, which ensures that all credit for the big win goes to Raje.
After the win today, BJP leaders including many of its women leaders,congratulated Raje for choosing Shobharani, who has been largely a housewife.
Following the win, while thanking the Dholpur voters, Raje said : “The verdict is a result of all the work done in the past three years, the policies of the BJP government in the state and at the Centre and also because of good governance. We have won because of our policy of sabka saath, sabka vikas.
BJP’s agenda before the voters was development and various welfare schemes and its benefits. But BJP actually worked out the caste arithmetics much better than Congress.
Shobharani’s candidature was more to attract the 25,042 Kushwah votes along with other communities. With assurance of Kushwah votes in their kitty, they started working on other castes. Raje personally met all community leaders, including Muslims and asked for their support.
The BJP wave in neighbouring UP, which shares its border with Dholpur, seemed to have swept into the constituency.
Congress’s search for a suitable candidate ended with 75-year-old Banwari Lal Sharma, who despite being a former minister and a five time MLA from there, was much too aged to catch the fancy of voters.
Congress’s only hope was the youthful, energetic state chief Sachin Pilot, who worked hard campaigning from door to door. Congress reached out to the Brahmin (24528 votes), Jatav (22728), Muslim and Lodha (15000 votes each), which accounted for more than 77000 votes. But Shrma managed only 35.90 % of total votes, while Shobharani cornered over 62%.
Poll experts say Raje had to win this poll anyhow. After her stupendous victory in 2013 Assembly polls when she had won 162 seats out of 200 seat Assembly, BJP had lost three out of the four bypolls in September 2014. Tongues obviously started wagging.
Added to it were the Lalit Modi controversy in June 2015, where she supposedly had endorsed Modi’s UK visa. There have always been speculation that Raje and Modi are not on the same page. There have been often rumours of replacing her and or she being called to the Centre.
Om Mathur, senior leader and Rajya Sabha member from Rajasthan and someone who is close to Modi, is often shown to be as Raje’s competitor. With him behind BJP’s huge win in Uttar Pradesh, there was a chorus of his taking over the reins here.
So in this political scenario, Raje could not afford to take chances. Winning Dholpur was not just important but most urgent for her. The win would not only prove to be an approval for her governance in the past three years, it would certainly improve her ratings at the state and Centre.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah keeping a close watch on all states including Rajasthan, Raje could not in anyway lose this bypoll.
With this win, Raje has no leader in the state to match her stature or her winning streak, despite the nagging controversies of Modi, cow and minorities.
Meanwhile, Congress’s loss is symbolic of the sad state of affairs in the party. Pilot’s reputation as the state chief is not something to rave about.
In a presser after the dismal loss, Pilot said : “We haven’t lost to BJP but to the Rajasthan government. If BJP thinks one victory, which was massively govt managed, reflects the mood of the state, it is mistaken.”
Although Congress is blaming the misuse of power and government machinery for winning the elections, Pilot has to drastically pull up his socks.
He needs to show results on the ground, enthuse his cadres and work to unite all party leaders. Otherwise Congress would soon be in oblivion in the desert state.