Crimes Against Women, Tribal Rights, And Political Rifts: Key Factors Affecting Rajasthan Elections

From rising crimes against women, water woes, paper leak scams, infighting among parties, and corruption charges against the Ashok Gehlot-led government, to climate change action and communal tensions would be the deciding factors for the voters’ preference. 

AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra addresses a public rally in Tonk district, Rajasthan.

Rajasthan, which has witnessed anti-incumbency since the 1993 elections, is set to go to polls on November 25. The 200-seat Assembly is seeing a sharp tussle between the ruling Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over several issues that have become the hotbed for the upcoming polls. While the Congress has floated the slogan, Kaam Kiya Hai Dil Se, Congress Phir Se (We have worked with heart, let there be Congress again), the BJP has responded with Nahi Sahega Rajasthan (Rajasthan will not tolerate). 

Though the state remains stuck between the anti-incumbency of Congress and BJP, which still lacks a chief ministerial face, there are further challenges that come with several other parties, notably the tribal assemblies rising in southern Rajasthan, trying to make an inroad into the state. 

With a month left for the elections, the BJP has already announced 124 candidates while the Congress is still lagging behind with 76 candidates only. It was speculated that Congress’s lists would be up sooner than the opposition in the state. In the 2018 assembly poll, Congress swept to power with 100 seats in a 200-member house, dislodging the BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje Scindia. 

In the murky waters of Rajasthan politics, several factors will dictate who will sweep the seat this time. From rising crimes against women, water woes, paper leak scams, infighting between parties, and corruption charges against the Gehlot-led government, to climate change action, communal tensions, would be the deciding factors for the voters’ preference. 

Key dominating issues in Rajasthan polls

The water crisis has been a dominating factor in the deserts of Rajasthan. In the runup to the elections, CM Ashok Gehlot, while reviewing the progress of works under the Jal Jeevan Mission at his residence, instructed officials to pay special attention to the availability of accessible drinking water. He said that despite adverse geographical conditions and scattered habitations, the state government was leaving no stone unturned to complete the works under the Jal Jeevan Mission. 

The Rajasthan paper leak scam dates back to 2022, when the question paper of general knowledge of senior teacher grade II competitive examination, which was scheduled to be conducted by RPSC (Rajasthan Public Service Commission) on 21.12.2022, 22.12.2022, and 24.12.2022, was leaked. The papers were provided to appearing candidates for the consideration amount of Rs 8-10 lakh per candidate. While the investigation has taken several months, on Thursday, the Enforcement Directorate raided the premises of state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra in Jaipur and Sikar as part of a money laundering probe into the alleged exam paper leak case and also summoned Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's son in a separate foreign exchange violation case.

Crimes against women have been a recurrent problem in the state. According to NCRB data 2021, Rajasthan stood second in crimes against women. Earlier, BJP leader and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje claimed that most of the crimes against women have taken place in Rajasthan which alone accounted for more than 10 lakh incidents in 54 months. In a press conference this July, Union Minister Anurag Thakur alleged, “A total of 33,000 cases pertain to sexual assault on women in Rajasthan, but the Gandhi family remains silent." Several leaders within the Congress have hit out at the leadership of the party over the safety of women. This time the state has a whopping 2.51 crore women voters.

Rise of tribal parties 

In 2018, the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) took people by surprise by winning two seats and finishing a close second in some constituencies in the southern part of the state in what was its first elections. The southern belt of Rajasthan is the tribal belt constituting 8 districts. A new political outfit, Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP) -- formed by tribal leaders following a split in the Bharatiya Tribal Party -- has thrown the gauntlet to the BJP and the Congress in Rajasthan's tribal belt, forcing senior leaders of the two national parties to make frequent visits in their attempts to shore up support ahead of the assembly polls.

BAP’s formation caused a complete split in BTP, with most supporters and leaders jumping ship to the new outfit. BAP's formation was announced in September by MLAs Rajkumar Roat and Ramprasad Dindor -- who won the 2018 polls on a BTP ticket.

Factionalism within political parties 

The Congress has been witnessing a wave of rift within its own party with Sachin Pilot’s rebellion since 2020 and a recent rift in the cabinet following the remarks of two ministers against each other has created an uneasy situation, prompting Congress in-charge Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa to ask Gehlot to intervene in the matter. However, during a delay in the ticket distribution of the party, Gehlot refuted claims of disagreement within the party and maintained that there remains no difference among the party members. 

Speculations around factionalism within the BJP also became clear when a few BJP leaders burst out in protest following the party’s first candidate list. In an earlier Yatra held by the BJP at Jhalawar, Raje was seen missing. Raje has been representing Jhalawar for 33 years in various capacities. Further, the fielding of Diya Kumari from Rajasthan’s Vidhyadhar Nagar has raised eyebrows over the CM candidate.