Rajasthan MahaSamar 2013 – A Ground Report from Parbatsar

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Virendra, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    I went to cast my vote at native village in Rajasthan Elections this Sunday. Here's something I wrote out of it.
    As it mainly focuses on one constituency, I didn't add to the existing Raj elections thread.
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    Rajasthan MahaSamar 2013 – A ground report from Parbatsar

    So I set out from Noida, to cast my vote in the 14th Legislative Assembly Elections of Rajasthan, mine for the first time. I was excited like a school kid going for picnic outing.
    A journey of more than 350 miles would take me to my native village in the Parbatsar Tehsil.
    After hearing quietly all that our so called leaders had to say, this is where I was to punch my voice and have it heard loud and clear.

    My village is a serene and isolated pocket of around 640 voters and its laid back face could ditch anyone into thinking (incorrectly of course) that it was a lazy place.
    It is a part of the Parbatsar seat in Nagaur district of Central Rajasthan (previously a part of Marwar). The area is dotted with sparsely forested (better called ‘Beehad’) Aravali mountains and I believe the Tehsil’s most picturesque locations exist in and around my village.

    This Election in Parbatsar is perceived as a battle between the sitting MLA - Man Singh of BJP and Lachcha Ram of Congress. Demographies would change from village to village, but this ground report should improve the reader's understanding on how elections are fought in Rajasthan.

    Demographics :-
    Parbatsar is a moderately populated area of around 1,70,000 voters and agriculture is still the primary occupation of the natives here, well at least for the ones who didn’t move out for greener pastures.
    The common voter of Rajasthan is a traditional, simple and yet politically passionate person.
    Word of mouth is still a very important factor in juggling the equations of electoral politics.
    Elections are a time where the otherwise cordial society’s fissures pitting the numerous castes and communities against each other, become excruciatingly visible. And we’re reminded of the arch rivalries like they never fell on the backburner. Largely the Party specific voting of cities is absent here. Parties hardly have any vote banks, it the caste/community that the latter rally to.
    This seat is no exception to the remaining Rajasthan in terms of the electoral math. The voting population is dominated by Jats, Gurjars, Rajputs, Maalis, Muslims and Meghwals etc followed by the trading communities.

    Let us visit the Jats first, after all they’re the most sizeable slice of the votes and had average CII (Caste Impact Index) of 3.26 in Rajasthan during last State Elections; clearly way ahead of all other castes. Jats are a hardy agricultural community that show signs of both - an Imperial community with typical Aryan features and gotras etc; as well as the customs, stubbornness and bonhomie of tribals.
    They’re probably the best and toughest negotiators of politics among Hindus, closely competing the Muslims.
    Looking at the longer record, we can say with a fair degree of approximation that Jats have largely been Congress voters, more so after Congress gave them the reservation benefits.
    It was like adding fuel to fire. Jats have only become more restless and ambitious.
    One thing that gives Jats the edge over others like Rajputs and Baniyas (traders) is that they have understood the dance of democracy very well. They realize the importance of vote and of laying votes en-masse. Their voting percentage is excellent and owing to this image their ground influence is likened to the effect of carpet bombing. Jats are roughly around 42,000 voters in this seat.

    Gurjars are a community that has taken to agriculture without leaving their pastoral ways. They still own hordes of cattle.
    Today they fall in the same bracket as Jats and Meenas in terms of occupation, broad lifestyle and consequently everything else. Thus the competiton.
    Gurjars have long had a feeling of being let down and ignored. According to them, Jats and Meenas have progressed, benefitted at their expense. As a result they have at times resorted to negative voting i.e. they’ll vote to defeat the Jat candidate. This is a sometimes attributed partly to a reactionary consolidation that has started taking place in the State among a few castes lately, because of the growing clout of Jats.
    Col. Bainsla has recently hopped in favour of the Congress and has appealed to the Gurjars to vote for Congress. But it didn’t seem to cut much ice in this seat. It was an odd situation as the Congress Candidate is a hardcore Jat. Yet the Bainsla group tried desperately to gather some local Gurjar leaders and put them on rally platforms like vote magnets. They barely managed some 2 middle ring leaders and the efforts succeeded only marginally. This might backfire as well, because reports suggest that the Gurjars only frowned at such tricks.
    Needless to say, the ethicality of last minute political overtures is always under question. We place the Gurjar voters at 12,000 approximately.

    Rajputs have been one of the laziest voters I have ever seen in the Indian democracy. Despite of being well educated, well connected and respected across sections of the society; they don’t find enough representation. Number one reason is the laid back attitude and number two is the lack of strategic rallying and show of force even at the hour of need. Among all castes, Rajputs often end up with highest frequency of sabotage and screw their chances due to overwhelming jealousy even at the unit/family levels. What to say of winning elections. Rajputs have mostly been comfortable voting for the non-Jat candidates. At the seat in focus, Rajputs vote bank is roughly pitted around 33,000.

    Next, the Maalis with their approximately 12,000 votes have been a swinging lot traditionallly, up for grabs for whoever can impress them better. However in the past decade or so they have been consolidating as Congress voters wherever possible. The CM Ashok Gehlot belongs to this caste but Maalis are no exception to the ‘local factor dominated’ formulae of Rajasthan politics. Here the local factor need not necessarily mean the good looking issues like corruption, infrastructure etc. It comes down to dirty politics of caste competition and individual prejudice etc.

    Muslims are yet another solid voting entity, not only in Parbatsar but elsewhere in the State as well. Their voting percentage is excellent and votes are laid en-masse like Jats. The only difference is that their methods of community level discussion, vote decision and compliance discipline are more developed than those of Jats. Unlike Hindu castes, they are also the only notable exception, voting on Party basis (read Congress). The voter headsount of Muslims stands at 12,000 ballpark figure and almost all of them live in the Parbatsar town.

    The trading communities of Parbatsar Tehsil (dominanatly 'Baniyas') is almost as old as the first settlers of this region. They have a unique place in its history as till barely a decade ago Parbatsar was known for its huge and successfull annual fair. They guys only have a moderate voting percentage, but they prefer status quo and consistency in policies, Hence they usually do not swing to change Governments. They generally prefer BJP, who are perceived as a pro-Industrial party. Their strength (further subject to low turnout) is pitted at around 15,000 votes.

    Brahmins are placed at around 10,000 voters and have been concentrating in the town lately. They have a moderate to decent turnout in polling and are slightly tilted towards BJP.

    Many other communities like Meghwal, Regars, Balai etc are actually swing sections but their votes are said to be falling in Congress and Independents kitty more often than the BJP.

    Meenas are not in huge numbers in the seat at focus, so we’ll glance over for now. Suffice to say that overall in State, the Meena votes have squandered without solid issues, distracted between traditional party choices and the National People’s Party of Kirori Lal Meena, who is the tallest Meena leader in the State.
    Reports say that Gehlot Government had deployed maximum force around Meena’s core constituencies, supposedly to tie him down from doing any mischiefs. The leader is known to have a rough reputation.

    In the bigger picture of this caste jumbo circus – most importantly the Gurjars, Meenas and Jats are a deadly triangle where none could stand any other’s influence. The likes of Rajputs, Baniyas and Maalis come across evoking only a mixed response.
    Jat-Rajput rivalry is archaic but otherwise the Rajputs get along well with pretty much all the communities in Rajasthan, even with the Muslims and especially with the Gurjars.

    Another peculiarity is that being on a bullish juggernaut; Jats have failed to cultivate support in the lowest strata castes of the society. On the contrary many other castes such as Rajputs, Gurjars etc have been able to gain some support from there in the past.

    Last Time :-
    Before we get into the see-saw of what happened this time, let me give a glimpse of where it anchors in the past.
    In the last elections, this seat was won by a local (Rajput) BJP candidate Man Singh, of OP Mathur camp. He had warmed up to politics in Jaipur by already winning a ward there in the past and was constantly active in his party.
    It is common knowledge that cities don’t yield space to budding politicians easily and there is a bit too much competition at times. One has to look for breathing space elsewhere.
    For this or some other reason, many times the politicians migrate to their rural/native places.
    After plenty of going around, this BJP candidate finally landed the Parbatsar ticket from BJP.
    Congress tried to play smart by pitting an educationalist Rajput candidate against the BJP rival. Rajput votes were going to split wide open.
    Consequently the Jats who felt left out, went ballistic on both parties as their numbers were highest. But the fury misfired when two independent Jat candidates entered the fray. Jats had put themselves in the same pit where BJP-Congress threw the Rajputs.
    Both parties had wanted to polarize the electorate as usual. But it was their own doing that the things bungled up bad now. It was crystal clear that the two largest communities had completely divided their votes now. This was a big mess.
    Gradually the battle lines shrunk between the BJP candidate on one side and an independent Jat candidate on the other.
    BJP candidate was fighting there for the first time and the Jat-Rajput rivalry was still kicking hard.
    My father was helping the BJP candidate in his campaign. One day when he stopped for a chat with local Muslim leaders in the Parbatsar town, they cordially but openly professed that the BJP candidate was a good guy but he was BJP after all. It was a clear message. After Jats the Muslims also were not going to the BJP candidate’s side. The candidate had to work round the clock in garnering the votes from other communities. Among the things that worked for the BJP candidate, one was that he had a clean image and at worst he was less known in some areas.
    All he had to do was to outrun the best Jat candidate in the field. Considering that, it might surprise many that he won by a margin of 1692 votes only.
    Man Singh got 26704 votes and his close rival was the independent Jat candidate Lachcha Ram with 25,012 votes. At third and fourth position were Congress's Rajput candidate & an Independent Jat candidate adjacently with around 15,00 votes each.

    Paddle forward to present Elections. This time Congress has corrected its mistake and that independent Jat candidate is in the fray again, as the Congress player. BJP has entrusted the reigning MLA to fight back as his record and image have been decent. Being the reigning MLA he has strengthened a base of organized workers under him to campaign more systematically this time.

    Thus in an even more fascinating repeat duel, the two top scorers of last elections are back locking horns in the ring for another bout.

    Congress Candidate Prospects:-
    Jats will vote for him in huge numbers. Looking at the share of Jat votes in the region, this alone might propel this candidate to a victory. Last time as an independent candidate he had given a tough fight to the winning BJP candidate, even after losing many of his core votes to another Jat candidate.
    Considerable votes are also expected from far flung rural area where Jats run their writ.
    Bainsla’s stunt has ambushed the Gurjar voters into tremendous pressure and confusion and some breakaway in favour of Lachcha Ram (with a rider of voting for the party and not the person) is imminent.
    A small dent is possible owing to the incident where the candidate’s relative was said to be involved in an elopement (run away romance) case. We could not independently verify the authenticity of these reports, but the hear say cannot be hand waved away in such an electoral environment, as it equally affects the psyche of many voters.
    Another small dent will occur because of community level Jat leaders mutual enmity disturbing the good fortunes of this candidate. Couple of these leaders and small time chieftains in the middle ring are not fond of this guy.
    If the Jats repeat the last polling performance, make some infiltrations, without committing silly mistakes – their candidate would be through.

    BJP Candidate Prospects:-
    This candidate is the current MLA. His fairly decent record and good image has lead to a wave in his support, especially in the town.
    In terms of the numbers, one change since last time is that Muslims have come up in his favour (with a rider of voting for the guy and not the “party” of course). We don’t know what lead to this - could be their perception of the BJP candidate, his work or could be an anti-Jat build up in Muslims. To me it was a tiny miracle, looking back at my father's experience of last elections.
    Trading communities here are pro-BJP as usual and have found the candidate approachable, reasonable to deal with. Their votes were with him before and will stay so this time as well.
    Same is the case of Rajput votes, only that the voting percentage needs improvement.
    How much the other castes can consolidate against the big chunk of Jat votes will determine the fortune of this candidate. It is more crucial this time as compare to last elections, because this time the Jat vote is not divided in two players.

    Rough estimates of the materializing votes are as follows:
    85-90% Jats votes are going the Congress Jat candidate. 10-15 % would defect.
    75-80 % Gurjar votes are going to the best non-Jat candidate ... the BJP candidate. Remaining would splinter wildly.
    85-90 % Rajputs votes are going to the BJP candidates. 5% would defect.
    65-70% Muslim votes are banked to the BJP candidate this time. Remaining won’t budge.
    75-80 % votes of the Trading communities (baniyas etc) would stick to the BJP candidate.
    Many of the remaining castes including Meghwals are thoroughly divided and we don’t have data for some.
    Total voters count is not expected to swing wildly as the Election Commission has not only pruned many fraudulent, non-existent voters from the list; but also new voters have added to the tally.
    So the figure will remain more or less around 1,70,000.

    Another stone turner for many candidates was the support from University level leaders better known as ‘ChatraSangh’ Netas. These players not only ferried a large number of young voters between cities and villages for their commanders. But they also lent their entire core group of wingmen aka mini ‘bahubalis’ to the campaigning. Left Hand man, Right Hand man ... it was all hands on the deck.
    It appeared a bit peculiar to me initially. Although I had realized later on that politics down here in the rural ‘beehad’ of Rajasthan, was so overwhelmed by a complicated struggle of local factors that the fundaments of savvy Metro analytics would fall like a pack of cards. This was a different world.

    Voting was enthusiastic all around in Rajasthan (record breaking average of 74.38%). Rural areas opened up with aggressive voting since the break of the dawn, while the towns got in top gear after noon only. Such high turnout is attirbute to two reasons:
    a) Election Commission has cancelled many bogus voters from its lists. So the number of eligible votes might have come down.
    b) Allround good voting. Rural voting has been tremendously healthy this time and the City folks didn't disappoint either.

    At many places the Candidates tried their imaginations to the best. One guy even distributed 30,000 Mangal Sutras as a smart appeal to the traditional Indian women among the voters.


    Coming back to the polling at our Seat in focus, most of the votes at my village’s polling booth were cast by 2:30 PM IST, similar was the case in nearby villages. We had one Constable at the village booth but it never felt like we needed more.
    The State officials and CRPF kept hopping between the booths for surveillance. Yet in the midst of all this, a lot of my gray matter got fried in the day light gray area activities. I call them gray because they are all pure black mischief done so effortlessly in the region, as if snow white saintly actions.
    Rules and regulations be damned!! Liquor and money was getting distributed to petty chieftains of small but closely knit communities of far flung areas. I had never seen systematic chaos working in such a silent and smooth way. It seemed the procedures were twisted; identities were traded, hot lunch served for the polling parties and targets achieved by hook or crook. Person mattered not, law mattered not. What mattered was the vote. A casted B’s vote and C did it thrice. It all unravelled as if some well oiled and experienced machinery was at work and I could almost hear “that is how we roll here”.
    It only reminded me of the convenience with which corruption exists in our society and system.

    Many times in the eerie darkness of night, the candidates would send parties of goodie distribution (what else, booze and money) to the rival’s core villages to break away the votes.
    At many villages including mine the guard was up. A band of workers of BJP candidate was setup, guarding the entry points of my village. They would play cards, drink booze and keep watch all night. Crackers would fire as signals of communication. What the signals meant I could never know. Yet the weekend was happening for a city dweller like me.
    One of these rival parties in a Jeep was intercepted near my village and sent back. Another one on a bike (stealth mode?) was chased down. The duo dropped the booze on ground and ran away. Obviously it was the chasing workers who relished the booty.

    The Mob:-
    On Friday evening the BJP candidate was touring for the final phase to reach out to the voters for one last time. During that, with total two vehicles in Caravan he reached the Jat dominated ‘Kurada’ village. Some unidentified villagers or political workers blockaded him by filmy interception with 4-5 vehicles on the road.
    It is a common practice for candidates to patrol from one polling booth to another, overseeing the polling and guarding against potential illegal practices of rivals.
    Two days later on the polling Sunday when voting was almost over, for some reason the MLA found himself in the same ‘Kurada’ village that had a polling booth. This time things boiled over the top.
    Perhaps it was the frustration of some rivals who had seen the wave in favour of Man Singh and tempers were eagerly waiting to break down.
    A mob of hundred of Jats attacked the MLA. Reacting swiftly, his men locked him up in a house nearby and a bloody battle raged outside. The MLA’s vehicle was up turned and completely damaged by the mob. As soon as the news broke out, a large number of his supporters galloped in and surrounded the entire village.
    Before the situation could escalate further, the MLA came out to diffuse the tension and stopped his men from resorting to counter violence.
    Man Singh, the most educated of all the candidates, is known for being calm and low key.
    At the same time the CRPF contingent swept into the village and effectively put a lid on the situation.
    Later the incident was reported in a filtered manner at DNA as follows:
    Rajasthan polls: Arson, violence hit polls; gunshots rock Rajasthan - India - DNA
    But lets look a bit away from these gang fights. To the simple and straightforward villager, the touch point was not Modi or Vasundhara, nor was it Gandhi or Gehlot. It was ‘Sohna’ his Dhaani’s small time go-to guy who would bow down into the mud hut and while sharing Chilam would tell him where his and the dhaani’s vote was going this time.
    Sohna had already had his bottle and share of green notes after all.
    It is these Sohnas who use their tactical value and play pivot role in sabotage etc as well. Sabotage reports had emanated from MP also where BJP workers had reportedly abandoned booths and last phase campaigning.
    Influencing these Sohnas’ would be the village’s Thakur or the Jat Sarpanch, both a bit higher up in the food chain.
    What the voter’s behaviour in these high end digital elections also signified is that whether or not they went to Modi’s rally or of Rahul was immaterial; they still have a political choice to make. That they are passionate enough to make this choice heard far out and loud with 75 % turnout.
    Let there be no doubt that it is a folly to conclude the mood of common voter by his high or low turnout in the pre-election rallies of political superstars like Rahul or Modi.
    Now the naive and expert, rural and urban all folks have written the fate of Rajasthan’s politics for the next five years. The scroll would be read on Sunday the 8th of December.
    Stay tuned to know who will enter the Durbar.

    Regards,
    Virendra
     
    Neil, Singh, Simple_Guy and 5 others like this.
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  3. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    I also voted for the first time in Jhotwara constituency of Jaipur ( Raj), Incidentally this is the largest in terms of registered voters among all assembly constituencies of Jaipur Distt. (2.39 lac voters)
     
  4. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    Jhotwara and Khatipura have a record of good voting turnout among all the seats of Jaipur.
    What intrigued me in Parbatsar's case was how the Rajput and Jat candidates were neck to neck.
    Look at the first two guys .. a Rajput and a Jat having 25-26 thousand votes.
    Then at the third and fourth position .. again a Rajput and a Jat having around 15 thousand votes each.
    After that there is no one in five digit figures.

    Rajasthan is full of such rivalries. Sadly, the real issues get sidelined in all this.
     
  5. nrupatunga

    nrupatunga Senior Member Senior Member

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    @Virendra That was confusing. Is this the 1st time you voted?? or 1st time in rajasthan??
     
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  6. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    It was the first time I ever voted. I know it is a bit late. I can travel from Delhi to Nagaur just for the reason of casting my vote, but not from Bangalore to Nagaur.
    That is what kept me held last time. Not anymore. I moved to NCR in 2010 :)
     
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  7. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    Very good write up. Tonight all the TV channels will have exit polls for the state elections.

    Did @Virendra or @pkroyal notice anyone taking exit poll in their constituencies?
     
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  8. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    I don't know if someone might have done it in the Parbatsar town, but nobody did exit polls in the far 'dehaat' regions of my constituency.
    We only went to the town to get grocery or ferry our relatives who were among the voters :p

    By the way, English Media would be too scared or uncomfortable to dive down here.
    And the local Hindi Media guys are so un-glamorous that you wouldn't easily notice them working.

    Regards,
    Virendra
     
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  9. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    More about Muslim population in Parbatsar assembly constituency. What is their social profile?

    High caste (Mughal, Shaikh, Syed, Pathan) or low caste?

    Farmers, businessmen, artisans, labourers?
     
  10. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    I'm not sure if there are places with good Mughal population in India. These guys would be local converts mostly .. with some Afghan population.
    Like their peers in Makrana; many of them are in different income levels and life cycle phases of the Marble Industry.
    Some are businessmen who own Mines, some are workers at warehouses that sell the Finished Tiles and likewise.
    Others would work as Mechanics, Butchers etc.

    By the way Parbatsar's results are out. Top three scorers are :
    Man Singh Rathore BJP 75236
    Lachcha Ram Badarda INC 58938
    Ganpat Lal Mundel CPI(M) 2675
     
  11. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    Timesofindia article
    caste system took root among Indian Muslims after Qutbuddin Aibak founded the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century. Sultanate scholars divided Muslims into Ashraaf and Ajlaaf.

    The Ashraaf are Syed, Shaikh, Mughal and Pathan and the Ajlaaf are Qasai (butcher), Nai (barber), Julaha (weaver). The very lowest Ajlaafs were Arzaals (sweepers, shoe-makers, etc).

    Congratulations to him and to BJP for record breaking result in Rajasthan
     
  12. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    There are about 2.5 million Mughals in Indian subcontinent.

    This map shows a district-wise breakdown:
    [​IMG]
     

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