Jaipur, Oct 8 (IANS) A direct narrative of a Prime Minister Narendra Modi versus Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot contest has been created in Rajasthan, which is making it different from the earlier Assembly elections of 2013 and 2018. In those elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led from the front, but this time, Ashok Gehlot himself is playing on the front foot.
The other differentiating factor is that the elections of 2013 and 2018 were projected as a Vasundhara versus Gehlot contest, however, this time Raje is not in the picture. So it’s clearly evident that this time, it shall be Modi versus Gehlot.
Modi has come to the state eight times and meetings of the BJP’s National President JP Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah are also held at regular intervals. Further, the BJP has fielded central ministers along with local leaders in the desert state.
Nadda, Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and more than 10 Union Ministers have visited Rajasthan to participate in the BJP’s ‘Parivartan Yatra’.
On the Congress’ side, Rahul Gandhi has had three meetings and the Congress’ National President Mallikarjun Kharge and Priyanka Gandhi have had one meeting each. Further, Sachin Pilot has held some meetings at his level.
But Gehlot has held 100 meetings till now. In fact, he had come into election mode soon after presenting the state budget and started touring the districts.
With many populist announcements, including free mobile phones in the budget, an attempt was made to change the political narrative by announcing new districts on the day the budget was passed.
Now let’s understand how the narrative of Modi versus Gehlot was created.
The BJP contested polls from 2003 till the last elections by declaring its chief ministerial face. In such a situation, it was seen as a Raje versus Gehlot or Raje versus Congress fight. This time the BJP is going to contest elections on a collective leadership.
Modi has declared that the BJP’s symbol ‘lotus’ will be the face of the party during elections. It is clear from this that no single leader from Rajasthan will be the face in these polls. The PM will be the face while other leaders will have side roles. With the BJP not declaring any leader of Rajasthan as its chief ministerial face, the Modi versus Gehlot narrative is now visible in the elections.
Also Modi, in his eight meetings in Rajasthan so far, has fiercely attacked the Gehlot government by taking the CM’s name. He has also made political attacks on Gehlot in every meeting, raising issues like the Gehlot-Pilot feud, paper leak, corruption and the Lal Diary.
After Modi’s blitz, the BJP also started carrying out political attacks with the same force. After the PM targeted Gehlot, the political narrative was seen as PM versus CM.
On September 27, in the public dialogue programme of ‘Mission 2030’ in Jaipur, Gehlot said, “Next time the Prime Minister comes to Rajasthan (he must) give a guarantee that if your (BJP) government comes, none of our schemes will be stopped.”
“He should guarantee that the Old Pension Scheme will be there. The insurance of Rs 25 lakh that we gave will remain. We have made laws, they will remain in place, if the Modi government comes back,” said Gehlot.
Meanwhile, Modi took a swipe at Gehlot in the meeting in Chittorgarh and said, “Some people sitting in Delhi do not believe it, but I am saying that Gehlot knows that this government is going.
“Gehlot himself is saying that as soon as the BJP government comes to power, the schemes of the Congress government will be stopped. I assure the public that we will not stop any scheme. Instead, we will make those plans better. Action will definitely be taken against those who have looted the money of the poor.”
On October 3, Gehlot hit back at Modi and said, “We will keep the welfare schemes implemented. What is your definition of welfare schemes?”
“Who can trust that what you are saying will be implemented? First apply it at the Centre.”
“I had told the Prime Minister that he should guarantee that if the (BJP) government is formed, he will keep our plans intact, but the Prime Minister gave an evasive answer,” Gehlot said.
Rajasthan is not the only state where there is a PM vs CM poll battle. In West Bengal, Bihar, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh polls, too, a local face was not put forward by the BJP.
However, the BJP faces more risk in choosing a PM vs CM narrative. If the results are not in favour of the BJP in the elections, then the prestige of the Prime Minister is at stake.
This has happened in Karnataka, Bengal and Himachal. Although the BJP turned the issue in a different direction and put the responsibility of the defeat on other leaders, the risk factor cannot be denied.
A PM vs CM poll battle in Rajasthan will be a big challenge for Gehlot no doubt. The aggressive manner in which Modi is creating a narrative by raising issues of failures of the Congress government in the state is a big challenge for the CM.
However, the seasoned politician Gehlot is also making a sharp counterattack on the issues raised by Modi. In an election with a PM vs CM narrative, there is an opportunity for Gehlot to increase his stature while the political risk is lesser.
If the election results are in his favour then Gehlot’s stature will increase and he will get a chance to say that he defeated the PM on the strategy front.
If the election results are not in Gehlot’s favour then it will be said that his fight was with the Prime Minister of the country and the big machinery. So what if he lost!