Jaipur, May 2 : The Assembly polls are more than a year away but it seems Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is already in campaign mode.
Her mighty roadshow in Jodhpur yesterday, the hometown of former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was symbolic in some ways. The show of strength was held after the conclusion of BJP’s two-day working committee meeting in the Blue City. Firstly perhaps to unnerve Gehlot with a power roadshow, secondly to enthuse party workers and get them poll ready to attain the target of 180 seats in 2018 Vidhan Sabha polls and also for 2019 Lok Sabha’s 25 seats.
The march on Monday evening saw Raje acknowledging the crowd, mostly BJP party workers, in an open jeep. The rally covered major roads, markets of the city and ended at the Clock Tower.
The roadshow was to project BJP’s victory in securing an advantageous deal for the Barmer refinery with HPCL, saving Rs 40,000 crore and keeping the interest of the people of the state.
Earlier at the two-day meet, Raje and the party members took a pledge to bring in 180 seats out of the total 200 seats. In 2013 elections, BJP got around 161seats, giving it an edge over other parties. There is also a sentiment to keep out aged leaders over 75 years out of the contention for the 2018 polls which would exclude big names like home minister Gulab Chand Kataria and Speaker Kailash Meghwal.
The fight for the 180 seats seems to have begun early. The party has hit the campaign trail early, starting off with the Dholpur bypoll, held in April this year. With one of the biggest victories for the BJP in Dholpur seat, where Raje held a roadshow on the last day of the campaign, signallling the onset of election season.
State party president Ashok Parnami has asked district party workers to shun ticket seeking and work to strengthen party at the grassroots level.
Although the Dholpur roadshow was for the particular bypoll, the one held in Jodhpur yesterday, was perhaps to send a signal to Gehlot that BJP is intent on winning all seats in Jodhpur as well. And Gehlot would have to strive harder to keep his constituency Sardarpura in Jodhpur safe.
The roads and streets around 4 to 5 km through which the roadshow passed were washed and cleaned with water, angering many citizens and opposition parties including Congress. They said when the state, especially Jodhpur is reeling under water crisis, the BJP got the roads cleaned with water for the sake of their leaders, who are not bothered about the welfare of the people, even in this harsh weather.
BJP party workers in Jodhpur arranged dhol, music and flower shower for the Chief Minister to accord her a rousing welcome. Many gates were also erected to honour Raje.
Political observers say Raje’s intention to kick off the poll campaign early is indicative that BJP this time will leave no stone unturned to win the second time in a row. Her win in 2003 was followed by a defeat in 2008. This time Raje is not taking any chances and with BJP’s raps stride in most other states, Rajasthan cannot afford to go the other way.
Rajasthan has had a tradition of replacing the incumbent government every time the state goes to polls. But BJP with Narendra Modi at the Centre and Raje here, cannot simply lose this time. So to be on the safe, Raje has sounded the poll bugle early this time.