Swing in Jat vote

Print edition : November 27, 1999

DESPITE a good showing in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, the Congress (I) suffered a major setback in Rajasthan this time. Its tally of seats dropped from 18 to nine, while the BJP increased its tally from five to 16. The result could have be en worse for the Congress (I). It actually lost 11 seats, but the deficit was reduced as Buta Singh and Shiesh Ram Ola, who had joined its fold, won their respective constituencies.

However, in terms of vote share the Congress (I) was only slightly behind the BJP. And this result thus follows the trend of the last few closely fought elections. The Congress(I) maintained its vote share, but on account of the gains made by the BJP it suffered a five-percentage-point negative swing.

The BJP made gains across the State, picking up seats in every region. The major gains came in the Jat belt in the eastern and western regions, where it won five and two seats respectively.

The standard community and class profiles prevail in the State as they do elsewhere. However, they are evident to a lesser extent than in Gujarat and to a greater extent than in Madhya Pradesh. In the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, the Jat community was the o nly upper caste that went against the general pattern of support for the BJP and voted for the Congress (I). However, Jats were dissatisfied with the Congress(I)'s reservation policy. They switched to the BJP in large numbers, and this represented a 40-p ercentage-point swing against the Congress (I). The OBCs were divided in their support - by and large the Gujjars favoured the Congress (I), but other sections of the OBCs preferred the BJP. The Scheduled Tribes were also split, but the Congress(I) enjoy ed strong support among the tribal communities and Muslims.

Rajasthan is unusual for perhaps being the only State in India where there is no gender difference in voting behaviour. While nationally the Cong-ress(I) is usually more popular among women and the BJP among men, this pattern did not hold in Rajasthan.

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