| Vasundhara Raje
New Delhi, Dec. 15: The BJP’s landslide victory in Gujarat has stunned the Congress, but the saffron party walking away with all three Assembly bypolls in Rajasthan has added to its woes.
The BJP has wrested Sagwara (ST) constituency from the Congress and Bansur from the BSP and retained Bali, that fell vacant after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat became the Vice-President. The BJP won Bali by 13,000 votes, Sagwara by 14,105 and Bansur by 2,605.
Rajasthan, along with Madhya Pradesh and Delhi, is among the eight states that will go to polls next year-end and VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia has already said the BJP’s Gujarat script would be enacted in Rajasthan. According to Togadia, the “experiment of the Hindutva lab” would be repeated in Delhi, via Rajasthan.
The saffron hawks have been on the job already in Rajasthan. Apart from inciting a string of low-intensity communal riots, temple idols have been reportedly desecrated in places. During the Gujarat riots, a large number of swords were reportedly smuggled in to the state from Rajasthan.
BJP strategists feel Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — the two heartland states bordering Gujarat — are fertile for the Hindutva experiment. Both suffer from anti-incumbency. And in Rajasthan, starvation deaths and low-intensity communal riots have hurt the image of the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government.
Though the BJP was nearly wiped out in the last elections in Rajasthan, it still has a strong presence in the state. In the last elections fought on the plank of governance, the BJP had bagged 34 seats against the Congress’ 152.
The Rajasthan results have also bolstered the position of Vasundhara Raje, the Union minister who is a reluctant state BJP president. The victory, in the absence of veteran leader Shekhawat, has bolstered the state unit’s enthusiasm. Raje is now expected to begin a big drive to boost the party’s prospects in next year’s polls and the subsequent parliamentary election.
Sangh hawks, having tasted blood in Gujarat, are now impatient to repeat the experiment in Rajasthan. Togadia’s statement in Jaipur is ample testimony. “The Hindutva lab has started functioning in Jaipur as the BJP has won all three bypolls in Rajasthan. The final result will come by the next Assembly polls in the state, due in 2003,” he said.
Congress leaders, putting up a brave face, were dismissive of the results. A senior party leader said there was no need to worry; only the situation in the eight states going to polls next year needed to be assessed. A Congress leader emphasised that of the three seats in Rajasthan, his party has lost only one in Sagwara.
The Gujarat result has also emboldened Union minister of coal and mines Uma Bharti, who was tipped to become Madhya Pradesh BJP president.
She was then reluctant to take charge.
Bharati today said she was “ready to go to Madhya Pradesh or Chhattisgarh”. She warned that “Madhya Pradesh will go the Gujarat way if Digvijay Singh (the chief minister) makes mistakes similar to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s.”
In a statement, Ram Das Agarwal, BJP treasurer and in-charge of party affairs in Gujarat and Rajasthan, has demanded that Gehlot resign because people have lost faith in him. He said voters had given a fitting reply to pseudo-secular forces such as the Congress.