BJP desperate to polarise voters ahead of Rajasthan polls due to Ashok Gehlot govt’s immense popularity
A slew of welfare schemes launched by Congress govt in Rajasthan focussing on health, education and social security have led to upliftment of marginalised and deprived sections of society
The state of Rajasthan currently ruled by the Indian National Congress under the chief ministership of veteran politician Ashok Gehlot is evoked by the Godi media and BJP’s propaganda machinery primarily in the context of alleged power tussle between Congress leaders or to deflect criticism from BJP-ruled states over questions bad governance.
Whenever there is a brutal crime in BJP-ruled states, they immediately engage in ‘whataboutery’ in the context of the state, without realising the fact that unlike BJP-ruled states, its police takes proper actions against the perpetrators instead of targeting the victims which has become norm in most of the states currently ruled by the BJP.
In more recent times, the state of Rajasthan has been under some turmoil since Hindutva mobs carried out a procession in Karauli on Ram Navami which sparked a riot on April 2, 2022. The Godi media and the BJP’s propaganda machinery projected these as an outcome of stone pelting upon a Hindu religious procession that was passing through a Muslim neighbourhood.
Following the arson and loot in the wake of these riots, BJP MP and chief of its youth wing Tejaswi Surya tried to enter Karauli to further provoke violence.
The BJP and sections of Godi media also tried to communalise an incident wherein a Hindu temple in Alwar district was razed, deliberately overlooking the fact that the decision to do so was taken by the Rajgarh municipal council, which is dominated by the BJP. The concerned municipal board has 35 members out of which 34 belong to the BJP while only one member belongs to the Congress party.
Though these recent attempts by the BJP and its affiliate organisations to communalise Rajasthan forms a part of the nationwide phenomenon of using religious processions to create tension by raising demeaning slogans directed at the Muslim community, the BJP has been repeatedly targeting Rajasthan in particular ever since it went out of power in the state in 2018 state elections.
Last year, BJP tried to raise the bogey of ‘Hindu exodus’ from Tonk, a Muslim majority district. It accused the Muslim community of undertaking ‘land jihad’ in Tonk’s Malpura town, a claim that was later found to be unsubstantiated.
While fomenting communal trouble is part of BJP’s gamebook, the rise of communal incidents in Rajasthan should also be seen as a reaction to social welfarism of the Gehlot government. In last three-and-a-half years, the Rajasthan Government has launched several social welfare schemes focussing on health, education and social security aimed at the upliftment of marginalised and deprived sections of the society.
These measures have brought significant amount of relief in the lives of common citizens of Rajasthan who are bearing the brunt of global pandemic as well as Central government’s apathy.
In midst of the pandemic, the Gehlot government introduced a slew of welfare measures aimed at empowering every section of society. The Indira Mahila Shakti Udyam Protsahan Yojana was introduced to encourage and empower women entrepreneurs while the Indira Gandhi Maternity Nutritional Programme has provisions to provide an assistance of Rs 6,000 on the birth of second child. This programme was targeted at tribal women, who form 17% of the population of the state.
Similarly, there are programmes to distribute sanitary napkins to almost 28 lakh women in rural areas of Rajasthan through the IM Shakti scheme. The Indira Rasoi Scheme, meanwhile, aims to provide quality and nutritious food at affordable cost to the poor.
On the economic front, the Gehlot government has introduced several measures like relaxing loans, providing incentives, free electricity etc. to boost economy and attract investment.
It has also launched several programmes for employment generation and has also introduced unemployment allowance of Rs 4,500 per month for the youth of the state.
For farmers, two significant programmes have been launched namely, the Krishi Kalyan Kosh with a budget of Rs 1,000 crore that is aimed at providing farmers with proper price for their produce, and the Kisan Mitra Urja Yojana which gives a subsidy of Rs 12,000 per annum to farmers on electricity usage.
However, the most significant developments have been made in health sector. During his previous tenure, Ashok Gehlot had launched a scheme to provide commonly used drugs to people visiting government hospital free of cost.
When it was launched in 2011, this scheme, known as the ‘Chief Minister free medicine scheme’ made 608 medicines available at zero-cost to people. In 2019, the present Gehlot government increased the number of zero-cost medicines to 712, making it the largest free medicine distribution system in the world.
Also, in 2013, the Gehlot government had made 70 medical tests free of cost for people. In 2019, the number of tests were increased to 90.
The most significant development in this sector has been the introduction of Chief Minister Chiranjeevi health insurance scheme that aims to provide universal health insurance to all citizens of Rajasthan up to Rs 5 lakh.
Apart from these mainstream developments, Gehlot government also introduced Janta clinics to improve primary health care infrastructure of the state.
In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, the forest department of the Rajasthan Government launched the Ghar-Ghar Aushadhi Yojana. Under this scheme, every family of Rajasthan was provided with saplings of four medicinal herbs; two each of four herbs.
These schemes will definitely lower the out-of-pocket medical expenditure of people in the state which has made the Congress government popular in the state.
The variety of schemes launched by the Gehlot government has had an impact on the everyday life of the citizens. What is more interesting is that these multiple schemes of social welfare have been introduced when neo-liberalism as a paradigm to reorganise the economic sector on the lines of privatisation and slashing down welfare schemes has become the dominant paradigm of governance which has gained momentum under the BJP government.
Following the ouster of Vasundhara Raje in last assembly elections, the BJP has been undergoing a significant leadership crisis in the state. The gravity of the situation can be gleaned from the repeated appeals by central leadership of the BJP to its Rajasthan unit to iron out differences and present a united front.
In light of such a significant leadership crisis and wide number of popular social welfare schemes aiming to benefit every section of society by the Gehlot government, the BJP seems to have been left with only one cynical choice: to foment communal division in the state.
As the assembly election approaches, we can be sure that such attempts to polarise Rajasthan are only going to increase. It is therefore necessary for the Gehlot government and the Congress party to not only undertake a mass outreach programme aimed at reaching every household to create a humane connection with the masses of the state, but also to pre-empt the designs of the BJP and formulate appropriate responses to them.
(The writer is a doctoral student at Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Views are personal