Brand Modi, riding on governance accomplishments and the country’s growing international stand during its decade-long stint at the Centre, is facing challenges on local issues such as inflation, unemployment, lack of MSP for agricultural produce, and a water crisis that impacts the lives of people of the state.

The desert State will go to the polls for 12 Lok Sabha seats in the first phase of polling on April 19, and the remaining 13 on April 26.

Faced with this situation, the BJP election managers and candidates are also trying to address state-specific insecurities during their nukkar meetings in Ganganagar, Bikaner, Churu, Nagaur, Jhunjhunu, Seeker, Jaipur, Jaipur Rural, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dausa, Karauli-Dholpur - which ended on Wednesday.

Bhupender Yadav during his campaign had to answer the local outpouring which are common across his constituency

Bhupender Yadav during his campaign had to answer the local outpouring which are common across his constituency

Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav, the BJP’s candidate from Alwar Lok Sabha constituency, in his interview to businessline said that normally votes are cast for “vikalp” (to seek viable alternative), but this is a “pro-governance election” fought on Vikshit Bharat and the Prime Minister’s unparalleled achievements.

Facing the heat

But, Bhupender Yadav - pitted against Congress’ Jatin Yadav, a Congress MLA from Mundawar - during his campaign through the dusty lanes of villages in the scorching heat had to answer the local outpouring common across his constituency.

This despite the fact that the Union Minister repeatedly made it a point to convince people at each of the meetings on subjects like water crisis, which he said will be addressed through the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP). He would also broach the paper leak topic, assuring that the mafia will be wiped out to provide opportunities for youth.

Interestingly, in one of his campaigning tours of Semli Dilawar of Lachhmangarh tehsil, a village dominated by Guar community, women with their face covered came forward to raise the issue of water after the BJP candidate was over with his short speech. They said they had to travel quite a distance to fetch potable water.

A State BJP leader said candidates and their campaign managers are finding this peculiar scenario - which did not exist in the last two previous general elections of 2019 and 2014. While they are seeking vote on Modi’s popularity and the unprecedented growth, including India becoming fifth largest economy in the world, during the NDA’s consecutive stints at the Centre, the people are equally interested in knowing solutions to problems nagging them, the leader added.

Sandeep Kumar Saini, a 20-year-old resident of Puthka village of Bharatpur - still like Prime Minister Narendra Modi for installing deity of Lord Ram at Ayodhya but he too repeated that water and unemployment are major issues for him. In the absence of government vacancies, he said he appeared for the UP police constable recruitment examination recently. 

Saini evaded a query whether he would vote for Modi again this time.

As of now, the BJP also does not have strong State charismatic leaders such as former Chief Ministers Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Vasundhara Raje Scindia to act as messengers for Modi and galvanise different community leaders during the elections.

Scindia whose equation with Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah has never been savoury, has now confined herself to better her son Dushyant Singh’s poll prospects after the central leadership decided to appoint first time MLA Bhajan Lal Sharma as the new Chief Minister post Assembly poll win last year. Singh, the two time MP, is seeking re-election from Jhalawar Baran.

BJP sources said that CM Sharma’s own campaign rallies have failed to draw a crowd and a report has gone to the central leadership about it.

People on the ground are treating him as a lightweight leader, describing his government as “parchi ki sarkar” - an epithet coined after Union Minister Rajnath Singh was seen handing over a piece of paper to Vasundhara Raje Scindia on a BJP stage to announce the name of Sharma as the new the CM of Rajasthan.

Not just that, in the Lok Sabha seats of Shekhawati region of Jhunjhunu, Seeker and Churu, different caste loyalties of Jats, and Gujjars, and Schedule Tribe Meenas , dormant in the previous polls due to significant Modi wave, are also getting a significant play. 

The opposition’s campaign that BJP gets ‘400 Paar’, will change the constitution has also found traction among the beneficiaries of reservation especially the Schedule Caste, forcing Modi and Amit Shah to outrightly deny it.

The voters are keeping close to their heart which way their votes would go even though Modi himself appealed during a public meeting in Barmer to give a sweeping mandate to the BJP and, on the contrary, ensure that Congress candidates lose their deposit on all the 25 Lok Sabha seats of Rajasthan.

In the 2019 and 2024 elections, the BJP had won all the 25 seats and 24 constituencies, respectively.