Choice for Rajasthan voters: Cong's guarantees vs BJP's Hindutva, anti-graft plank

Choice for Rajasthan voters: Cong's guarantees vs BJP's Hindutva, anti-graft plank

Sawai Madhopur/Tonk (Rajasthan), Nov 22 (PTI) The Congress' welfare guarantees agenda or the BJP's Hindutva and anti-graft plank? With no apparent wave on the ground or pressing everyday issues, that's what it boils down for voters as Rajasthan readies for assembly polls this week.

The larger, macro narrative dominates the discourse in the desert state that has traditionally alternated between voting for the Congress and the BJP. And from the word on the street, be it from the vocal autorickshaw driver pushing for the BJP or the pan shop owner endorsing the ruling Congress' work in the last five years, the November 25 election could fall in line with the pattern.

While the Congress is banking on welfare schemes such as the healthcare Chiranjeevi Yojana and its seven guarantees in breaking the revolving door trend, the BJP is upping the ante over what it calls 'appeasement' of Muslims by the grand old party and corruption during the Ashok Gehlot-led regime.

There are takers for both narratives. In the eastern belt of Rajasthan, hard fought contests are playing out, including in Sawai Madhopur where the sitting Congress MLA (Danish Abrar) is in a triangular contest with BJP MP Kirodi Lal Meena and BJP rebel Asha Meena. The Sawai Madhopur, Tonk and Kota districts account for 14 seats of the 200 assembly constituencies.

Asked about the Gehlot government’s performance, most people appreciate the Congress' welfare schemes such as the Chiranjeevi Yojana and bringing prices of cylinders down but concerns are expressed over the state of law and order.

The BJP's Hindutva pitch and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face are also clinching factors for many with several people supporting the saffron party citing his appeal and 'rise' in India's global stature.

'Vote for the BJP is a must as Prime Minister Modi will ensure a Hindu Rashtra is established. We need a UP-like regime in Rajasthan to set things right. The Congress is only concerned about one community,' said Amrit Chauhan, an autorickshaw driver in Kota.

In his view, a candidate like BJP's Balaknath, contesting from the Tijara seat in Alwar, should be made the chief minister because he can rein-in 'mischief makers' just like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has done.

Ravinder Kumar, also an autorickshaw driver, echoed him.

He said it was the BJP's turn this time and people will opt for the saffron party largely because of its Hindutva approach.

'Schemes (of the Congress) are not important. The most important thing is to preserve our identity. We are not Brahmins or lower castes but Hindus first. The lower caste people have also now realised this and are firmly backing the BJP against the appeasement of one community,' added a BJP worker in Sawai Madhopur.

There is a flip side too.

If the BJP's Hindutva approach is gaining traction, there is also acknowledgement that the Gehlot government introduced several measures that reached people in remote areas.

Even some BJP supporters in Sawai Madhopur, Tonk and Kota acknowledged that the government had done well on the developmental count and its schemes had touched the lives of the poor.

Pawan Meena, a pan shop owner in Sawai Madhopur, said, 'The government has done good work. One cannot say this time that it failed on welfare measures as its schemes, especially the Chiranjeevi Yojana, benefitted lakhs of people. Whether that translates into votes is still to be seen.' Banking on that sentiment, the Congress has upped its game on welfarism, promising a slew of schemes for farmers and youth, including 10 lakh job opportunities, and a new scheme for recruitment at panchayat level.

The party has also promised doubling the amount for beneficiaries under the Chiranjeevi health insurance scheme from Rs 25 lakh to Rs 50 lakh annually and interest-free loans up to Rs 5 lakh to small traders.

Besides, it has said it would bring in reservation for minorities on the basis of their population after the caste census.

However, the issue of caste census does not have much traction among people in Rajasthan.

Law and order remains a concern with several people citing a tailor being hacked to death in Udaipur by cleaver-wielding assailants who claimed that he had insulted Islam in June last year. Crimes against women is also an issue frequently brought up.

'It is tough to call the election... but the BJP seems to be having an edge. The Gehlot government has introduced schemes but look at the state of law and order. What happened in Udaipur and the crimes against women in the state, it is a serious issue,' said Vinod B S, an owner of a shop selling Kota suits and sarees.

Another refrain heard is that 'badlav (change)' every five years is inevitable.

'The Gehlot government has done decently but there will be a change in government and there should be a change in government. This keeps the politicians on their toes. If one party remains at the helm, it takes people for granted,' said Mukesh Bairwa, a guide at the Ranthambore tiger reserve.

As the two parties go all out to stamp their narrative in people's minds, the main question remains whether the three-decade pattern of not repeating a government will remain or will the Congress buck the trend.

Polling in 199 out of 200 assembly seats in Rajasthan will be held on November 25 and the results will be declared on December 3. PTI ASK ASK MIN MIN

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