A jubilant BJP chief J P Nadda immediately attributed the victory to the party’s support among farmers, women and the poor. Addressing a press conference, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar called the outcome huge and an endorsement of far m reforms.
“This is a huge victory… this is farmers’ mandate for farm reforms,” Javadekar said. He pointed to a string of victories BJP has scored in diverse geographies — from Telangana in the south to Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh in the east — after the farm laws were passed, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and in defiance of the “disinformation campaign launched by the opposition”.
“Be it north-east, east, south, whatever direction you go, it is the BJP everywhere,” he added.
BJP’s final tally in Rajasthan panchayat bodies stood at 1,836 against Congress’s 1,718. It outperformed Congress in zila parishad polls with an impressive 323-246 scoreline.
The victory came as a surprise because BJP is seen as faction-ridden in the state with an influential group led by former CM Vasundhara Raje often at odds with others. The voting was preceded by a spat with ally Hanuman Prasad Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, which pulled away over farmers’ demand for the repeal of the three agri laws.
In contrast, Congress, led by CM Ashok Gehlot who defied a rebellion by his former deputy Sachin Pilot, was seen as the favourite for the contest. Gehlot had outmanoeuvred BJP to wrest control of four of the six municipal bodies for which elections were recently held.
Yet, it was the unfancied BJP, which was also up against the historical pattern of local polls favouring the ruling party, which prevailed, dealing yet another blow to Congress in a direct contest.
While a morale booster for BJP, it is a blow for Gehlot who last week alleged a fresh BJP-backed plot to topple him. The CM, who was tipped to be among those with the potential of handling at least a part of the portfolio of Congress’s recently deceased trouble shooter Ahmed Patel, may have to contend with a fresh bout of dissidence as Pilot’s unhappiness is hardly a secret.
Interestingly, the defeat comes in the wake of Gehlot’s aggression against the moves of BJP governments to criminalise “love jihad” and this can be a cause of celebration among the larger Sangh Parivar outside Rajasthan as well.
“Voters like BJP because they don’t like the opposition’s negative policies. They want the country’s development and have faith in Narendra Modi’s leadership,” Javadekar said.