For Zila Parishads, the BJP is leading in 13 of 21. In Panchayat Samitis, the BJP has gained an edge in 93 of the 222 seats where voting took place in four rounds in November.
Jaipur: Rajasthan’s ruling Congress, fresh out of a revolt that almost brought it down, is headed for a big blow in local polls, with the party losing in 21 of the state’s 33 districts in results that are still coming in.
Only half the state – 21 districts – voted in Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad polls held for local bodies in districts and villages.
For Zila Parishads, or district-level boards, the BJP is leading in 13 of 21. In Panchayat Samitis or block level boards in villages, the BJP has gained an edge in 93 of the 222 seats where voting took place in four rounds in November. The Congress is leading in 81.
The BJP is already posting victory reactions. “We are grateful for the way rural voters, farmers and women have reposed their faith in us in Rajasthan’s Panchayati Raj and Zila Parishad polls. This victory is a sign of the faith that villages, poor, farmers and labourers have on Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” tweeted BJP president JP Nadda in Hindi.
The local polls also indicate the emergence of new parties like former BJP leader Hanuman Beniwal’s Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP), which is a BJP ally. He is set to be the kingmaker in his area of influence, Nagaur.
Another smaller player, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), is winning in Dungarpur, beating both giants, BJP and Congress.
The Congress had recently performed well in urban local body polls, electing its mayor in four out of six municipal corporations. But the erosion of Congress’s support in rural areas, especially one of its tribal strongholds like Dungarpur, should be worrying for the party that came to power in the state in 2018.
Party seniors concede that the raging feud between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, who rebelled against him, is barely under the lid and is chipping away at the Congress’s dominance in Rajasthan.
The Congress has also lost out in regions dominated by its stalwarts, like the new party chief Govind Singh Dotasara in Sikar, state Health Minister Raghu Sharma in Ajmer (the BJP has won nine of 11 blocks) and state Sports Minister Ashok Chandana, in whose area – Bundi district’s Hindoli – the BJP has won 13 of 23 blocks.
The setback in rural Rajasthan is a sign that the party is falling in its traditional bases. The Gehlot vs Pilot fight is seen to have hit the Congress hard in local factors like electricity tariffs.
Sachin Pilot was Congress president for over five years in Rajasthan. With his replacement, there is a distinct power vacuum in the Congress’s organisational structure and it has affected the party’s performance in the rural polls, leaders say.
To keep the balance of power in his cabinet, Chief Minister Gehlot has also not made political appointments, a signal that has not gone down well with the party cadre in Rajasthan.
The BJP, on the other hand, has made gains at a time it sorely needed validation after the sidelining of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in its internal rift.
Vasundhara Raje has congratulated the BJP candidates on her victory.
“Heartiest congratulations to all the hard-working candidates of the BJP who won the Zila Parishad and Panchayati Samiti elections,” Ms Raje said in a statement.
“Heartfelt thanks also to the people of the state, who have reposed faith in the BJP by denying the false claims of the Congress government,” she added.
The polls to elect 636 Zila Parishad members and 4,371 Panchayat Samiti members was held in four phases in 21 districts — Ajmer, Banswara, Barmer, Bhilwara, Bikaner, Bundi, Chittorgarh, Churu, Dungarpur, Hanumangarh, Jaisalmer, Jalore, Jhalawar, Jhunjhunu, Nagaur, Pali, Pratapgarh, Rajsamand, Sikar, Tonk and Udaipur.
Voting took place on November 23 and 27, and December 1 and 5.