Everything depends on the voters’ mood swing in Bikaner division, which is as unpredictable as the monsoon. Political parties and commentators always find it difficult to feel the pulse of voters here. All four districts in this border area have different voting patterns. Trying to understand it and making a prediction is fraught with huge risks to one’s reputation.
On the one hand you have a leader who is on the verge of creating history by winning maximum number of elections in a row, and on the other, voters back a new face in every election that has taken place in last two decades. Also, caste is not a strong factor here as it is in other parts of the state, particularly after the delimitation; there is hardly any constituency with overwhelming majority of a single caste.
Not surprisingly, in the last elections Congress had an upper hand, but the BJP was not far behind. Of the 24 assembly seats spread over four districts, Congress bagged 11, BJP 9, independents got 3 and one went to CPI (M). Notably, the independents, who won 3 seats in last Assembly Elections, had helped the Congress form government. The BJP had ceded two seats to Indian National Lok Dal Bikaner district (Sri Dungargarh and Lunkaransar) as per their seat sharing agreement, which lost to the Congress.
The Congress is facing anti-incumbency while the BJP is saddled with factionalism. The outcome, this time, would depend on which of these two factors will dominate voters.
The home of world famous Bikaner bhujia has a tendency to vote out the incumbent MLAs.
Bikaner was split into two in delimitation. Bikaner West, where rivalry between jija and saala is expected to make them contest against each other once again. Gopal Joshi, owner of famous sweet shop Chotu Motu Joshi which has featured in several TV programmes, was in Congress but left about a decade ago. He would expect voters to break up with tradition of changing candidate, while Kalla would like them to continue so that he can return to the assembly.
On the other hand, Congress is searching for a suitable match to fight with Siddhi Kumari, MLA from Bikaner East and member of erstwhile royal family of Bikaner. Her grandfather Dr Karni Singh continuously won Lok Sabha election from 1952 to 1977. Congress had fielded Dr Tanvir Malawat, but may be looking for a new face this time.
Former BJP district president Gopal Gehlot, who was BJP’s mayoral candidate, is struggling for a ticket and is working strategically to lure the OBC and minorities vote bank. He is also in touch with some Congress leaders to join the party and contest against the former princess.
Former MLA and parliamentary secretary in Vasundhra Raje’s regime, Govindram Meghwal, is knocking the Congress door but there is strong opposition against him in the local Congress.
State home minister and transport minister Virendra Beniwal will be looking to make a hat-trick in Lunkaransar. The Kolayat assembly seat is one of the safest seats for BJP. Devi Singh Bhati has made it his fiefdom winning seven times consecutively since 1980 and is looking to create a history. The Congress has tried different candidates but to no avail.
This is one district where party and issues have no significance as caste conflict takes precedence. The BJP has been trying to take advantage of Jat community’s anger against Congress over Mahipal Maderna’s arrest in Bhanwari Devi’s abduction and murder case. The Congress is using alleged fake encounter of bootlegger Dara Singh in which state BJP president Vasndhara Raje’s close confident Rajendra Rathore, who is a Rajput, is accused of hatching the conspiracy.
The incident has also disturbed Rathore’s equation with local party MP Ram Singh Kaswan, a Jat. Similarly, the murder of Virendra Singh Nyangali, a Rajput who contested on BSP ticket has also fuelled communal tension. His brother is expected to contest the election and the caste factor is certain to play a spoil sport for Rathore who had switched to Taranagar in the last elections. Despite their significant presence in the district, Jats have been winning just one seat, Sadulpur. The BJP had won four out of six seats compared to just two by the Congress.
Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh
Voters gave a fractured mandate last time with Congress getting three out of six while the reast were shared by CPM, BJP and independent who was basically a congress rebel. This time the Congress and the BJP would face challenge from CPM as well as Zamindara party who have been eyeing farmers’ vote. CPM because of number of agitations for irrigation water and the latter because of making farmers’ rich through gwar gum. The last one is floated by B D Agarwal, who owns Vikas WSP, the world’s largest gwar gum producer. He had created sensation by announcing Rs 100 crore to set up a medical college.
Infighting and non-performance of its sitting MLAs would create problem for the Congress.
Observers of local politics believe that the Congress’ recent welfare schemes, budget announcements may help the party. But, in the end distribution of tickets and managing rebels will play major role in deciding victory for both parties.