False illusion, clubbed with overconfidence, cost BJP heavily in Rajasthan, where it was reduced just to 4 seats in the Lok Sabha as compared to 21, which it had won in 2004.
Soon after party’s defeat in the Assembly elections, the leaders of BJP sat to analyse the reasons for its defeat. They came to the conclusion that factional fight among the local leaders and wrong selection of party candidates at certain places, were the main reasons for poor performance of the BJP, which had come to power with 120 seats in the House of 200.
There was a demand within the party, that former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and State party president Om Prakash Mathur should have been replaced.
But since Lok Sabha polls were approaching, most of the party leaders at the Centre were of the view that change at this juncture would not help much and they decided that both should be allowed to lead the party in the elections. Despite shortcomings, most party leaders felt that Smt. Raje was still the best bet for the party in the elections. But the electorates had stored some thing different for the party and proved these senior leaders wrong.
Some leaders, including former Vice President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, were of the view that, if she leads the party in the Lok Sabha elections, party should be ready for the worst.
From day one, central leadership of the party was being assured that defeat in the Assembly election was a temporary one and party would bounce back in the Lok Sabha elections. The tally of Raje and Mathur of winning party candidates never fell from 16 and both repeatedly told their close associates that this might improve further. Both were confident and this convinced other party leaders that party would do better than Congress in these elections.
But the selection of some candidates indicated that party had not many strong candidates in some of the constituencies . In Chittorgarh party had to field Shri Chand Kriplani, a term Lok Sabha Member, against Girija Vyas. This was done despite his defeat in the Assembly election. Party had hardly any one to throw a challenge to Vyas. Similar was the case of Nihal Chand, again two term MP,who was re-fielded in Sri Ganganagar, from where he had lost the Assembly elections. Both were selected on the insistence of Raje.
On the other hand, Congress party started its election preparations aiming to win all the 25 seats. Though party high command was under pressure to accommodate the candidates from various factions, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had the final say in selection of most of the party candidates. The moment list of party candidates was out, there was immediate reaction among the detractors of Gehlot that with such candidates, party could not hope to win more than a dozen seats. They said that candidates like Mahesh Joshi (Jaipur), Lal Chand Kataria( Jaipur Rural), Badri Jakhar (Pali). Sandhya Choudhary (Jalore), Ratan Sing (Bharatpur). Khilari Bairwa (Karauli— Dhaulpur), Harish Chaudhary (Barmer) and Urmila Jain (Jhalawar), were no match to their BJP rivals in these constituencies.
In fact, Congress had organised the workers conference in each of the Lok Sabha constituency to ensure that party machinery would keep itself active till the polling day. After the elections, when leaders of the party sat to analyse the polling pattern and percentage, they drew the inference that even if party was able to maintain its Assembly polling percentage, it would not get less than 14 seats.
Joshi, who had won the Lok Sabha elections from Bhilwara, was sure that party would get at least 3 per cent additional votes in the Lok Sabha election. This would translate into winning at least 19 seats. And this is what happened in these elections as party got about 47 per cent votes. The party which won only four seats in the last Lok Sabha elections has reduced the BJP to the same position. During the election campaign, BJP attacked the Gehlot government for poor development of the State.
BJP leaders, in the beginning of the campaign were confident of nailing down the Congress. But few days before the polling some of them realised that situation was slipping out of their hands Raje, who had campaigned in every part of the State, remained in Jhalwara for four days, before polling, as she got the feedback that, things were going against her son Dushyant Singh in this constituency, from where she had won five Lok Sabha elections. She was sure that defeat of her son from Jhalwara would give tool to her opponents in the party to seek her removal from its leadership in the State Assembly. But even after the victory of her son, she is not sure of securing her position as her opponents are making out a case against her for poor performance in these elections.