People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 18, 2004
Amra Ram Files Nomination In Sikar
MANY poll pundits are predicting a clean sweep for the BJP in Rajasthan. They tend to argue that three months is not a period big enough for the voters to turn against an incumbent party. An argument that may be true otherwise seems difficult to swallow when one sees the electoral scenario in Rajasthan.
Despite the fact that the Congress vote share in the December 2003 assembly elections declined by 9.3 per cent as compared to the 1998 assembly elections, a less than four per cent difference gave the BJP 64 seats more than the Congress, providing it a two-thirds majority. This was a feat the BJP had been unable to achieve even during the heydays of Bhairon Singh Shekawat. It was the first time that the BJP secured a majority on its own and won from all regions of the state.
Among the host of factors that contributed to the Congressís defeat, political analysts point out that it is the Jat factor that contributed the most. The community which has been a traditional supporter of the Congress turned against it for a variety of reasons. Jats who constitute 18 per cent of the population can influence results in at least 52 seats in the state. Though the BJP has been the main beneficiary, parties like the INLD(R) were also able to capitalise on this and win four seats, in the state for the first time. The Congress lost 14 of its sitting Tribal reserved seats. These and various other factors apart, the presence of a large number of Congress rebels in the fray damaged the prospects of the Congress to a large extent. This is evident from the 11.5 per cent vote polled by independents. Congress rebels fought in over 70 constituencies. That is why though there was no anti-Congress trend visible during the election campaign, as was the case in some other states, the BJP was able to win. Nevertheless, during the last days of the campaign, it did become clear that the BJP was making headway.
Though the Lok Sabha elections may not witness a major upset, indications are that the BJP is finding it difficult to continue to retain the same amount of support that it received four months ago. This was evident from the poor response to L.K. Advaniís rath yatra. Even Vijayaraje Scindia who embarked on a state-wide thanksgiving yatra after being sworn-in as the Chief Minister, winded it up after touring a mere two districts, after failing to draw crowds.
Many sections that voted for the BJP in the assembly elections are distancing themselves from the BJP. More time would be needed to know how far away they will move from the BJP. The appointment of Narain Singh as the State Congress President though seen as a measure in damage control, the fact remains that he lacks a state-wide stature, image and acceptability. With his deciding to contest from the Sikar Lok Sabha constituency, it is perceived that he has gone back on his promise not to enter the electoral fray while holding the office of PCC President.
The Sikar seat was won by the BJP in the last two elections. Its candidate Subhas Mahariya is a union minister. Unfulfilled promises and lack of accessibility have led to anger and discontent against Subhas Mahariya. The people in Sikar have vowed to defeat reject him this time.
The BJP had polled 37.24 per cent in the 1998 elections. However, this increased to 45 per cent in 1999 both due to the Kargil factor and the raking up of the issue of reservation for certain sections amongst the forward castes. In fact these factors had contributed to a sizeable reduction in the votes polled by the CPI(M) candidate Amra Ram. While in 1998 the Party polled 25 per cent in the 1999 elections it could poll only 11 per cent. The Congress on the other hand polled 32 per cent in 1998 and 42 per cent in 1999.
The BJP is realising that everything is not as good as it had initially presumed. It is this realization that has forced it to bring back to its fold a rebel who contested and won the assembly election from Srimadhopur. Within the Congress too, though at the state level groups have reconciled after the defeat in the assembly elections, in Sikar proper factionalism is far from subdued. Narain Singh openly claims to be an opponent of Balram Jhakar, former union minister and a former Congress strongman from Sikar. Balram, a claimant to the seat himself is angry at deprival.
It is against this milieu that the CPI(M) enters the contest. Its candidate Amra Ram is a third time MLA from Dhod constituency. In the last election the Party was able improve its position winning by a margin of 21 thousand votes. Both the BJP and the Congress lost deposits. In nearby Khandela which also falls in the same parliamentary constituency the CPI(M) candidate had polled 17,000 votes and in Datta Ramgarh the Party polled 13,278 votes.
In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections the BJP led in the assembly segments of Lachhmangarh, Srimadhopur, Khandela, Neem ka Thana and Chomu, while the Congress led in Sikar and Danta Ramgarh and the CPI(M) in Dhod. In the 2002 assembly elections the BJP won in Lachhmangarh, Sikar, Neem ka Thana and Chomu, while the Congress won in Danta Ramgarh and Khandela. The CPI(M) won Dhod and a BJP rebel won from Srimadhopur.
The media hype notwithstanding the voter in Sikar is determined to the BJPís defeat Subhash Mahariya this time. They are not looking at the Congress candidate Narain Singh either. They are willing to give the CPI(M) candidate Amra Ram a try this time. Amra Ram has been a very popular leader in the area. He has always been in the midst of the people, giving vent to their grievances and raising their demands in the assembly. He has been in the forefront of their struggles whether it be on the question of electricity connections, supply or tariffs or other issues affecting the lives of the common people.
Amra Ram filed his nomination on April 13 2004. Thousands of people participated in the public meeting held on the occasion. Com. Harkishan Singh Surjeet, General Secretary of the CPI(M) was the main speaker at the meeting. He called upon the electorate of Sikar and Rajasthan as a whole to defeat the communal forces. Comrade Surjeet also appealed to the Congress to reconsider its decision to contest the Sikar seat.
Whatever the outcome, the terrible summer in Rajasthan will definitely raise a hot of heat and dust. April 14, 2004