JAIPUR: The Congress and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot got a big Diwali gift by winning both the Assembly bypoll in Vallabhgarh and Dhariyawad. Though Vallabhnagar was with the Congress, the win was impressive in Dhariyavad as the BJP had won it by 23,000-plus votes earlier. For the BJP, it was a humbling experience as it came third and fourth in the two seats.
The Congress victory is all set to strengthen the leadership of Gehlot who faces constant challenges from Sachin Pilot. In contrast, the big defeats are likely to further intensify the rift in the BJP state unit with former CM Vasundhara Raje again getting a breather.
Gehlot’s credibility and BJP’s new experiment with the Sangh leadership were both at stake in these bypolls. Experts believe that Gehlot is miles ahead of Pilot in the war of supremacy in Rajasthan Congress. Although Pilot had initially held meetings with Gehlot for both the seats, the electoral reins remained in the hands of Gehlot and state unit president Govind Singh Dotasra.
While Gehlot can send a message to the high command that his popularity remains intact, the hands of Dotasra are also strengthened. The calls for handing over the PCC command to Pilot will also become faint. “BJP has come third and fourth in both the by-elections and I think it is all due to the hard work of the Congress party workers. This is a victory of Rajasthan and the good governance that is being done under the leadership of our CM,” Dotasra said.
In the BJP, many leaders from the RSS camp including the likes of state president Satish Poonia and LoP Gulabchand Kataria are likely to face serious questions over their choices and leadership. For Vasundhara Raje, the results can be a case to recast her as the undisputed leader of the BJP. In Vallabhnagar, the BJP was hoping that it would at least save credibility. Instead, it got far less votes than Janta Sena candidate who is known to be close to Raje.