Y. Satyanarayana

As much as Amit Shah and Narendra Modi might seem unfazed by the BJP rout in Rajasthan, the results of the bypolls should send alarm bells ringing across the rank and file of the BJP, not only in Rajasthan, but across the country. The loss of Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha seats and the Mandalgarh assembly seat, all wrested by the Congress, has worrying signs for the ruling party in the state and at the centre.

For an incumbent Chief Minister and one who campaigned extensively, Vasundhara Raje could not have got a more outright rejection of her rule. Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan Congress chief is quite justifiably upbeat, as is the party's cadre in Rajasthan and elsewhere. The BJP's long run of victories has been checked.

If one looks at it closely and dispassionately, the BJP had it coming. In fact, the results of the Gujarat elections were a pointer to what was to come. Yes, the ruling party made it to power for the sixth consecutive term, but scraped past by the skin of its teeth. The Congress, not the most fancied of parties in recent electoral battles, stood up to the BJP and lost in what could only be described as an honourable defeat, by any unbiased observer.

If anything, the Congress, under its freshly-minted President, Rahul Gandhi, gained in stature. Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mewani climbed on to the Congress bandwagon, making the equation and caste arithmetic, even more difficult for the BJP in Gujarat.

Rajasthan is a different story altogether. For a long time now, the Raje government has been criticised for its feudal, ivory-towered style of functioning. Raje, it was widely reported, had become increasingly unpopular among the masses, not to speak of the RSS and party cadre alike. She seems to be among the few leaders on the political scene, who with a sound mandate and enormous goodwill, can alienate all sections of society.

The Rajasthan CM's popularity levels seem to have hit an all-time low. The sheer magnitude of defeat is a clear reflection of this, but the big question analysts ask is--do Amit Shah and PM Modi have a fix to the Rajasthan conundrum? The party leadership and Raje may have to pay a heavy price for her style of functioning, which has been no secret to political observers. Now is the time for the party leadership to introspect and bring a change of leadership in Rajasthan if the ruling party wants to get its act together at all.

The Congress, on the other hand, has begun to exude confidence which had been missing for a long time now. If there’s a spring in its step, in a manner of speaking, it is not without reason. The results have come as a big morale booster for the party and the implications are there for all to see--there is growing resentment against the BJP. Caste arithmetic apart, the Congress has been able to focus on Raje's poor administration and could successfully highlight the shortcomings of her tenure. The party's campaign seems to have found resonance with the masses. It will however, need to bring Gehlot and Pilot to work together, lest ambition prove costly for the party.

The BJP on its part should introspect on how far its divisive nature of politics can further its electoral agenda. Besides, if the whole world and his dog knows that the ruling party is missing a trick under Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, why can't Shah and Modi see it? What does one attribute their inaction to--arrogance or ignorance? It’s about time PM Modi read the tea leaves.