In a significant development in Rajasthan, communists won two seats from Bhadra (Hanumangarh) and Dungargarh (Bikaner). The party had no representative in the last assembly. On two other seats – Raisinghnagar (Ganganagar) and Dhod (Sikar) – CPI(M) candidates emerged as the runners-up.
The victory is being attributed to the farmers’ protests led under the banner of All India Kisan Sabha across the state.
Balwan Poonia, the CPI(M) candidate from Bhadra seat led his campaign around the protest he undertook to get back the additional interest farmers were charged on their Kisan Credit Card (KCC) loans. He also helped secure claims for kharif 2017 under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) whose premium was debited by the State Bank of India (SBI) in the region but not credited to the insurance company.
These efforts bore fruit with the SBI reversing approximately Rs 16 lakh in interest to the farmers and also paying them the PMFBY claims.
Girdharilal Mahiya had a similar campaign in Bikaner where 30% of the irrigation depends on tube wells. He led a protest to compel the government to hike the minimum support price (MSP) of the groundnut produce and roll back the power tariff hike. As a result, the government was forced to increase the MSP on groundnut and withdraw the hike on electricity.
In the run-up to the elections, a few hours before the model code of conduct was imposed in the state, chief minister Vasundhara Raje also announced free electricity for farmers in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, the farmers’ protest in Sikar last year led by Amra Ram, vice president of the All India Kisan Sabha and a veteran CPI(M) MLA, couldn’t alter the influence of the Congress and BJP in the Shekhawati region. In Sikar – Jhunjhunu and Churu together – out of the 21 seats, the Congress won 15, BJP won four, while the BSP and an independent candidate won a seat each.
Amra Ram contested from Danta Ramgarh seat in Sikar but only managed to finish in third place with 44,643 votes. This seat has a caste influence for which Ram was reportedly heading to BSP for support, but it couldn’t materialise.
Similarly, Pema Ram, a former CPI(M) MLA from Dhod was also an active leader in the protest in Shekhawati region but was a runner-up this time with 61,089 votes.
Party for the tribals
In its debut in Rajasthan, Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), founded by a tribal leader from Gujarat, Chhotubhai Vasava also won two out of the four seats in the tribal belt of Dungarpur – Chorasi and Sagwara, the reserved seats for Scheduled Tribes. The Congress and BJP have won a seat each here.
In Chorasi, BTP candidate Rajkumar Roat secured 64,119 votes followed by BJP’s Sushil Katara, who had won this seat in 2013 polls. The Congress had won this seat in the 2008 elections. In Sagwara, BTP candidate Ramprasad secured 58,406 votes followed by BJP’s Shankarlal. In 2013, Anjali Katara of BJP had won the seat with a margin of 640 votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections too, BJP had led in the Chorasi and Sagwara assembly segments of the Banswara (ST) parliamentary constituency.
Velaram Ghogara, head of BTP’s Rajasthan unit who is also associated with the Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ICITP), has left no stone unturned to make the tribal population of Dungarpur aware about their constitutional rights. BTP’s campaign also saw opposition from the administration that didn’t want them to reach out to the tribals.
“In our campaign, we explained the tribal community about their rights and how their welfare has been compromised all these years. The youth was supportive and took the cause forward but when the police began intervening in our meetings, the community understood what we were trying to explain them and result is in front of everyone today,” Ghogara told The Wire.
The angst against the ruling party was mainly against an amendment to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act that diluted the provisions of arrest in the law.
On the Aspur seat won by BJP in Dungarpur, a young BTP candidate Umesh fell short by only 5,330 votes as compared to the sitting BJP MLA Gopichand Meena.
“For the BJP, even very young party workers are strong opposition here. In these tribal belts, both Congress and BJP become ‘friends’ to not let the tribals come up but the results this time are satisfactory,” he added.
Emergence of Jat leadership in Rajasthan
Jat is an important community in the Rajasthan electorate and has the potential to influence as many as 50 seats. Initially, being traditional Congress supporters, the Jats shifted their vital support to the BJP in 2003 when Congress’s Ashok Gehlot denied a candidate from their community a chance to become chief minister.
Ahead of the elections, Hanuman Beniwal, a rising Jat leader from Khinvsar in Rajasthan’s Nagaur, formed his own party called Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLTP) that independently contested 57 of the 199 seats in the state assembly elections and managed to win three of them from Khinvsar, Merta and Bhopalgarh.
While Beniwal retained his seat from Khinvsar, RLTP candidate Indira Devi, who was contesting the assembly election for the first time, defeated the two-time BJP MLA Sukhram by 12,835 votes in Merta, an SC reserved seat in Nagaur.
The party also successfully spread its reach outside Nagaur by grabbing a seat in the Congress bastion Jodhpur where RLTP candidate Pukhraj defeated Congress’s Bhanwarilal Balai by a narrow margin of 4,962 votes in the Bhopalgarh seat.
Pubished in arrangement with TheWire.In