NEW DELHI: The gains made by the Congress in the civic body elections in Rajasthan, particularly in Vasundhara Raje’s family strongholds of Jhalawar, Baran and Dholpur, came as a much needed boost for the party, which has been aggressively campaigning against the Chief Minister over her alleged involvement in Lalitgate.
The result has given the grand old party some reason to cheer, especially because in the recently-held civic polls in Madhya Pradesh the party suffered heavy losses at the hands of Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP Government, whom it had targeted over the Vyapam scam.
Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Sachin Pilot saw in the results a declaration of “no confidence” by the people against Raje, while other party leaders saw hope for the Congress as its vote share rose by as much as 25 per cent.
The BJP won majority of the 129 Municipal bodies-- 60-- as against the Congress’ 40. But the tangible gains the Congress made in Raje and her son Dushyant Singh’s bastions caused a minor embarrassment to the saffron party.
Both Raje and Dushyant, who were embroiled in Lalitgate, significantly lost out in Dholpur despite being part of the Royal family there -- a fact which still matters in Rajasthan with its regal hangover.
The fact that the Congress has reduced the vote share gap with the BJP from a whopping 26 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to one per cent now, brought some relief to the Congress high command.
All the eyes in the party are now on the Bengaluru civic body poll, which has become a prestige fight for Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. More so, as no political party in power has lost the city elections since 1983.
The BJP, which has been in power in majority of the outgoing bodies, is said to be putting up a close fight. The JD(U) is not far behind either. The civic body polls have suddenly acquired a new meaning and importance, as in each of them -- whether in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan or Karnataka -- the BJP and the Congress are in direct fight.
Given the bitterness between the two parties, these polls have become shadow battles for the leadership. So much that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took time off from his UAE trip to tweet congratulations to Chouhan after the BJP posted an impressive win in Madhya Pradesh civic polls.
Meanwhile, the BJP described as the electorate’s fitting reply to the Congress’ malicious campaign against Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje. “The Congress had unleashed a campaign of falsehood against Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan (MP Chief Minister). But the people gave a fitting reply to the Congress, realising that its allegations were absolutely false and untenable,” Union Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said here.
As per the final results, out of the total 3,351 wards in the civic bodies, including the Ajmer Municipal Corporation, the BJP won 1,443, the Congress 1,164, independents 703, the NCP 19, the BSP 16, the CPI five and the CPM one. The BJP claimed that when chairmen of these corporations would be decided on Friday, the party would have 87 posts, while Congress 22.
The saffron party said people have rejected the Congress’ propaganda by giving it a majority. He said the outcome mattered as the Congress, which was once in control of seven Municipal Corporations in the state, has none now. The Union Minister claimed that the BJP has increased its vote share to 37.16 per cent, from 36.34 per cent in 2010 and pointed out that the Congress’ vote share had come down to 33.77 per cent, from 35.31 per cent in 2010.
PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah congratulated Raje.