After five years of Congress rule, the Bharatiya Janata Party, revitalized by an aggressive prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, is determined to return to power in Rajasthan, one of its bastions.
Ballotting will take place in 199 constituencies under heavy security Sunday. Polling has been postponed in Churu to Dec 13 following the death of a Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate.
The Congress and the BJP are contesting all the seats. The newly formed National Peoples Party (NPP) has candidates in 150 constituencies, and the BSP is in the race in over 100 seats.
A total of 2,087 candidates are in the fray. There will be over 47,000 polling booths across the sprawling state. The votes will be counted Dec 8 -- along with Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Rajasthan along with Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and undivided Madhya Pradesh have been the foremost strongholds of the BJP and its predecessor, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh.
"Our strategy has been to showcase the failures of the Congress government in Rajasthan and the UPA government's failure to control food prices," Arun Chaturvedi, BJP's vice president and its candidate from Civil Lines area in Jaipur, told IANS.
The Congress says people have not forgotten the poor showing of the BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje, who is the chief ministerial candidate yet again, causing some heartburn within her party.
"The Congress will return to power with a thumping majority," Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said.
"The BJP failed to perform as the opposition in Rajasthan for five long years. Vasundharaji was on four-year tour of London, Delhi and Dehradun and was rarely seen in Rajasthan. Then, for votes, she undertook a tour of Rajasthan. Do you think voters don't know who is doing what?" Gehlot asks.
Gehlot and others on both sides make no effort to hide the bitter rivalry that has always marked Congress-BJP battles in the desert state.
The aggression of Modi has not helped matters. In Rajasthan, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate has attacked Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Sonia Gandhi has accused the opposition - read Modi - of spreading rumours -- a polite way of saying "telling lies".
The leading candidates are Gehlot, Vasundhara Raje, state Congress president Chandrabhan, Gujjar leader Prahlad Gunjal and Meena community leader Kirori Lal Meena.
Independents, rebels, the NPP, the BSP and the CPI-M have made the going tough for both the BJP and Congress in 40-60 of the constituencies.
Although the BSP won six seats in 2008, all its legislators crossed over to the Congress.
The Congress talks about the development Rajasthan has seen in the past five years, including the supply of free medicines to the poor.
The BJP contests the claims, saying the state suffers from non-governance and corruption.
Political analysts have their fingers crossed on the possible outcome.
"There does not seem to be any undercurrent in favour of any party. So it is difficult to predict who will win," says analyst Ravi Goswami.
"But it will be a close contest with BJP and Congress rebels as well as the NPP and BSP in the fray," he said.
In the outgoing house, the Congress holds 102 seats and the BJP 79.
--IANS (Posted on 29-11-2013)