There was conjecture in the run-up to the Rajasthan Assembly elections that the governing Congress would announce its candidates ahead of the BJP, allowing its leaders more time to craft a strong campaign. But with precisely one month till the polls, the Congress is behind the BJP, which has declared 124 candidates. On the other hand, the Congress has only been able to identify 76 candidates so far, most of whom were already expected to win.
Currently, there are 108 candidates in Congress. The 2023 assembly elections will be very important to the Congress administration. Following many rounds of discussions in Delhi with party officials concentrating on rapprochement between the two in front of top leaders, the list of candidates was released.
A delicate balance?
Along with 45 current MLAs, five Ministers of State, and fifteen Cabinet members, the list also includes a mixed bag of supporters of outgoing Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot. The tickets went to five independent candidates who backed Ashok Gehlot during the 2020 election impasse. It’s interesting to note that despite Congress’ best efforts, the lists have a stronger Ashok Gehlot stamp due to the retention of the majority of the current MLAs and the accommodation of the independent MLAs who had backed Gehlot.
Two candidates were filed from the Dudu and Sirohi constituencies: independent MLA Sanyam Lodha and loyalist to Ashok Gehlot Babu Lal Nagar. The latter is also the chief minister’s adviser. Both had contested the last election on their own and had backed Gehlot’s establishment of the Rajasthani administration.
Additionally, even though Gehlot’s supporters are on the list, three supporters—two cabinet ministers, Mahesh Joshi and Shanti Dhariwal, as well as Dharmendra Rathore, the chairman of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation—who were thought to be the masterminds behind the 2022 “rebellion”—did not make the second list. Congress insiders say that it is doubtful that the party’s senior leadership would support their candidacy.
When the CLP meeting was called off in September 2022 and it was said that the party high command intended to replace Gehlot as Chief Minister with Sachin Pilot, all three were embroiled in controversy.
“Despite the worry that the incumbent MLAs would face anti-incumbency sentiment, the party has endorsed almost all of the current MLAs and supported Independents. According to Outlook, a senior Congress politician, “the names suggest that the Gehlot was keen to accommodate all his loyalist MLAs who saved his government in 2020 and 2022.”
Indraj Gurjar, Mukesh Bhakar, and Ramniwas Gawriya, three pilot loyalists who supported him during the 2020 uprising, have also been fielded once again.
The party has fielded notable figures like as Vishvendra Singh, Raghu Sharma, CP Joshi, Govind Singh Dotasara, and Krishna Poonia in addition to Gehlot and Pilot.
Pushpendra Bharadwaj from Sanganer and Archana Sharma from Malviya Nagar are the party’s nominees. They had both lost the previous elections. It is interesting to note that the party did not support incumbent MLA Safia Zubair in the Ramgarh constituency in the Alwar district, but instead nominated her husband, Zubair Khan, for the same seat.
Niranjan Arya, the former chief secretary, was nominated from Sojat in the Pali district. Sushila Dudi, the spouse of former Opposition Leader Rameshwar Dudi, has also been fielded from Nokha. After losing the 2018 Assembly elections, Dudi spent two months in the hospital as he healed from a brain hemorrhage.
The 200 seats in the Rajasthan Assembly are divided into 141 regular seats and 34 and 25 seats designated for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories, respectively. Currently, the BJP leads the opposition with 70 seats, the ruling Congress party has 108 seats, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has two, Rashtriya Lok Dal has one, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has three, Bhartiya Tribal Party has two, and there are thirteen independent candidates.
Despite not winning a majority of 101 out of 200 assembly seats, the Congress won a landslide in assembly elections in Rajasthan in December 2018. Out of the 199 seats up for election, 99 were won by Congress. Under the leadership of party chairman Sachin Pilot, the Congress did well, rising from 21 seats to 99 seats, while the opposition BJP, under by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, had its number of seats drop from a gigantic total of 163 seats to only 73.
One month later, Congressman Safiya Zubair won one from Ramgarh in the Alwar district, bringing the total to 100. By-elections later, Congress picked up two seats. 2019 saw the victory of Congress candidate Rita Chaudhary from Mandawa, while 2021 saw Nagraj win from Dhariawad in the Pratapgarh district. In addition, the six BSP MLAs who had previously supported the Congress on the outside merged with the party in 2020.