The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership in Rajasthan seems to be in complete disarray. At least that’s what their statements seem to show. On Saturday, incumbent Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje reached the party office in Jaipur. She left without speaking to media personnel waiting for her to respond to the exit polls. This was right after an unofficial meeting between Raje, state BJP chief Madan Lal Saini, state organisation secretary Chandrashekhar, and election management committee convenor Gajendra Singh Shekhawat concluded. However, there was one brief comment that Raje gave, not to a camera or microphone: “don’t worry, we are returning to power”.’ But her expressions didn’t show any confidence.
The exit polls have brought devastation for the BJP. According to the exit polls of different TV channels, BJP and Raje are set to lose Rajasthan. However, Shekhawat responded to the media saying that after a discussion between the four state leaders, they concluded: “We are going to emerge as the single largest party and are going to form the government.” When asked what went wrong as there is a difference between emerging as the single largest party and one clinching the majority mark, Shekhawat, who is also a union minister and Jodhpur MP, told Newslaundry, “I said we will emerge as the single largest party and form the government. We will touch the majority mark.” He added, “Nothing went wrong, 180 was our target to keep motivated our karyakartas.”
Notably, Shekhawat himself had admitted that there are at least 60 seats which the BJP is watching closely, as it could have a triangular fight or a tough contest between several candidates. Responding to questions on whether the party is strategising to bring in such candidates, Shekhawat said, “Even though we don’t feel the need to do so right now, our people are in touch with such probables. The BJP is ready for all possibilities.”
Senior BJP sources said the party is not ruling out any possibility and is working on all fronts “whether it be roping in rebels” or those who formed new political fronts in the state—Hanuman Beniwal and Ghanshyam Tiwari. The state BJP chief Madan Lal Saini, however, spoke in complete contrast to these analogies. Saini vehemently rejected the exit polls and said the BJP is returning to power with a full majority. He in fact also went on to say that the BJP is expecting a close contest only on 20 seats. This completely contradicts the numbers shared by Shekhawat.
In his first interview after the polls and exit polls, Saini told Newslaundry that the BJP is set to retain Rajasthan. He also rejected the possibility of any anger amongst the farmers and youth which might have worked against the party in the assembly polls. Here is an excerpt from the conversation:
Newslaundry: What does the BJP’s internal feedback from assemblies, district and party officials say?
Madan Lal Saini: We are forming a government with a complete majority. The BJP is set to break the myth that Rajasthan keeps on changing its government every five years. We will form the government.
But the exit polls are telling a completely different story which is against your narrative.
I don’t give much importance to exit polls. Rather I depend on the feedback on our karyakartas who work on the ground, who bring in the voters to the booths. I trust my workers—they are saying we are winning and forming the government.
As far as your exit poll is concerned, it was exposed in Bihar and Delhi assembly elections, where it said that the BJP is set to form the government. The exit polls were exposed in Uttar Pradesh, where it showed that BJP was not even close to the victory, but we won with a brute majority. The exit polls are mere speculations based on the feedback of small sample size.
But the exit polls were in your favour in UP, in Gujarat, and even in Karnataka to an extent. So where it is in the BJP’s favour, you accept it and where it shows you losing, the leadership rejects it.
I never rely on exit polls. I trust the feedback of my workers.
Which regions of Rajasthan have come out to be positive and where is the party expecting a setback?
The claims that I have made is based on the complete picture of Rajasthan. The actual results could differ by one or two seats. It is not possible for me to discuss the details of each region.
Generally, the BJP, after discussions with its workers from booth level to the state, comes up with a number. You are yet to share what numbers are you expecting from the assembly polls?
It is not a matter to be discussed with the media. All that I can say is we are winning the polls.
Union Minister Shekhawat said the BJP will emerge as the single largest party and you are claiming that BJP will return with a full majority. Why is there a difference in these statements?
These are mere numbers. If we get 99 seats—BJP will become the single largest party. If we get 100 seats—we will clinch the majority. It is a matter of one or two seats.
So is it going to 99 or 100 (a majority number) that you are expecting?
That doesn’t concern the media. We are forming the government that’s it.
Hypothetically, if you fall short of the majority, what is Plan B?
There is no Plan B. We will not have to resort to any alternative plans, as the results are going to be in our favour.
Moving ahead, the farmers [in Jodhpur belt] told me that the capping of 40 quintals for MSP for garlic has become a trap for them. They are forced to sell the rest of the production at as low as ₹2. Do you agree that the BJP had to face the anger of farmers in the state because of this?
[Irked] These are matters of policy and governance. It such a vast issue that can’t be discussed in this manner and neither you will be able to understand it. Moreover, such details are of no use for your channel.
But did the anger of farmers work against you?
There is no anger amongst the farmers. We have waived off loans of farmers up to ₹50,000. We have given accident compensation of ₹10,000. We ensured the availability of urea for them. All these things have ensured the anger is vented out and they are happy with our government.
Do you agree that the Congress was able to use unemployment in the youth as a poll plank against you?
There was no wave against us. For the youth, 76,000 jobs are in the pipeline. Another 26,000 vacancies are on hold as the matter is in the court. All these vacancies will be out.
Last question. Hypothetically, if things don’t work as per the BJP’s expectation, what is the alternate plan? Have you formed teams to reach out to the rebels?
That won’t be required. We will not need to manage the rebel candidates. We are confident and Vasundhara Raje is returning to power.