The Politics of Rajasthan
The Dhundhar region, which gave two chief ministers to the State, is key in this election. Priyanka Gandhi’s intense rajya sabha campaign here has been in part aimed at wooing this community.
The politics of Rajasthan is dominated by the BJP and Congress. It has a unicameral legislature consisting of 200 MLAs elected for five-year terms.
Jats are known to vote in large numbers and can swing elections. But the community has never had a Jat Chief Minister, even though it had backed the Congress under Parasram Maderna in 1998 and later voted for BJP leader Vasundhara Raje when she was projected as a Jat Ki Bahu.
Currently, the Congress is vying for Jat votes in its bid to retain power. Priyanka Gandhi attends regular rallies in Jat-dominated areas and her appeal for votes is seen as a challenge to the BJP’s own Brahmin and Rajput leaders who typically hold larger gatherings.
But a key factor that could change the electoral arithmetic is Hanuman Beniwal, a Jat leader who led the farmers’ protest against the now-repealed agriculture laws in 2020. Mr Beniwal’s absence at the Jat mahakumbh this week indicates a possible split in Jat votes and will be closely watched by the BJP and Congress as they fine-tune their campaigns.
Ahead of the upcoming state assembly elections in Rajasthan, India’s northwestern state with a high caste mix, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is struggling to hold on to Rajputs and Brahmins—upper-caste Hindu vote groups that the hard-line nationalist party can usually count on. Observers believe that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s dismal performance and unfulfilled promises have turned both communities away from the BJP.
Pandit Suresh Mishra, President of the Sarva Brahmin Mahasabha, said his community is weighing its options because the BJP has not done anything significant to assure them that it cares about their welfare. Among the community’s demands are setting up of a Lord Parashuram University, redressing the disparity in economically weaker section (EWS) reservation, enactment of a law safeguarding priests, and withdrawal of FIRs filed against those involved in past protests. They also want the government to prioritise employment for economically backward Brahmin families and stop demolishing temples. These demands could help determine the electoral outcome in Rajasthan’s most populous state.
The politics of Rajasthan are dominated by the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The state has a unicameral legislature (Vidhan Sabha) elected through universal adult franchise, with a few seats reserved for tribal groups and traditionally disadvantaged communities. The chief minister and cabinet are responsible to the assembly, but the governor also has significant powers.
As with most states in India, Muslims make up a large portion of the population in Rajasthan. But despite their demographic weight, they are underrepresented in public offices and state institutions. This is due in part to the state’s majoritarian politics and a culture of intolerance toward religious minorities.
A new report by the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen argues that the state has failed to deliver on its promises to its minority community. The report found that more Muslim children in the state are anaemic and stunted than those of any other religious group. More than half of the state’s Muslims live below the poverty line, according to the report.
For decades, Rajasthan’s politics were dominated by two state stalwarts—Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Mohan Lal Sukhadia of the BJP and Congress respectively. The two parties fought a bitter battle to control the state and dominate national politics.
But the issue of cow slaughter has become a major issue in Rajasthan, with the BJP taking advantage of this to draw voters to their side. The BJP is also pushing for the teaching of history textbooks with a Hindu nationalist view of India’s past, prioritising certain communities and individuals to foster a sense of nationalism in students.
However, the Gehlot government has a high approval rating in the state, with 43% of those surveyed by NDTV-CSDS-Lokniti being completely satisfied with its performance and 28% somewhat satisfied. This sharp focus on development has kept the anti-incumbency against the BJP at bay, unlike in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The BJP is still the clear favourite to win in Rajasthan, but it could be a close call.