Did infighting and anger against individual MLAs damage Congress prospects in Rajasthan?

There’s not much difference in vote percentage between Congress and BJP

CM Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot had been at loggerheads for a large part of the last five years | PTI CM Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot had been at loggerheads for a large part of the last five years | PTI

The Congress in its initial anlaysis of the poll outcome in Rajasthan feels that the Assembly election in the state was a closely fought battle in which the party could have done better had it handled the issues of infighting and anti-incumbency against sitting MLAs better.

Party leaders point out that the difference in the vote percentage between the Congress and the BJP is not much, the scenario quite similar to 2018 when the Congress had managed to poll more seats than the BJP and form the government. 

The vote percentage of the Congress and the BJP appeared to be settling in this election at 40 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively. In the 2018 election, the Congress had got 39.30 per cent votes, while the BJP had got 38.08 per cent votes.

Rajasthan has in the last three decades voted out the incumbent. The Congress has, as an incumbent and with Gehlot at the helm, lost in 2003 and in 2013, winning 56 and 21 seats, respectively in the two elections. This time round, the party can derive some consolation at having managed to make it a somewhat closely fought battle and winning more than 70 seats.

In an election devoid of any over-arching issue or emotive talking point, Congress leaders feel that the Rajasthan poll outcome appears to be a sum of local factors and issues coming into play, especially the popularity or the lack of it of the individual candidate. 

Both the Congress and the BJP have in these elections dealt with the issue of anti-incumbency against the sitting MLAs, and both the parties have failed to replace a substantial number of incumbent MLAs. In the case of the Congress, as per internal surveys, there was a high level of dissatisfaction against around 50 sitting MLAs even as there was not any palpable anger against the Gehlot government's policies. However, less than 20 sitting MLAs were replaced. That many ministers lost in the elections underlines the perception that there was a high level of disenchantment amongst the people with their representatives.

Infighting is also believed to have cost the Congress dearly in Rajasthan. Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot had been at loggerheads for a large part of the last five years. The central leadership intervened and managed to get the two leaders to put their differences on the backburner in the run-up to the elections. But it is felt that the perception of the Congress being a divided house had already percolated down to the people and the party high command's intervention came a little too late in the day. 

The infighting may have cost the Congress Gujjar votes, especially in the eastern Rajasthan region where the community holds influence in around 12 seats. The Congress had done well in the region in the previous Assembly election when Pilot, a Gujjar, was the state Congress president and was expected to become chief minister if the party won.

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