No end to infighting in BJP’s Rajasthan unit even as national executive meeting kicks off in Jaipur today

A number of aspirants for the CM’s post, should BJP come to power in Rajasthan, sprang up after party’s top leadership sidelined two-time CM Vasundhara Raje after losing to Congress in 2018

No end to infighting in BJP’s Rajasthan unit even as national executive meeting kicks off in Jaipur today

Prakash Bhandari

Even as the national executive of the BJP meets in the Pink City on Friday, the infighting in the party’s Rajasthan unit continues unabated.

A number of leaders sprung up to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post, should the BJP come to power in the state, after the BJP's top leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah sidelined two-time Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje following the party’s defeat in Assembly polls in 2018.

Raje, like Raman Singh, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, was made the national vice president of the party, but they have both been rarely involved in its organisational affairs.

After the death of Rajya Sabha member Madan Lal Saini, who was the BJP’s Rajasthan unit president, MLA Satish Punia was appointed to the position. He was the first Jat to assume the post and now both BJP and the Congress are headed by Jats, with Govind Singh Dotasara serving as chief of the Congress’ Rajasthan unit.

The Jats are quite powerful in state politics and there are as many as 45 Jat legislators. Seven out of the 25 MPs too are Jats, and all are from the BJP.

After Raje was sidelined when the Congress brought down the BJP government and came to power, she was given a lukewarm response by Punia. This led many within the party to emerge as aspirants for the BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate. Satish Punia himself became very hopeful since he is a Jat and the state has never had a Jat as Chief Minister. But senior party functionary and deputy leader Rajendra Singh Rathor too started asserting himself for the top post.

Going by merit, leader of the Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria, who served as state president and minister and has been a member of the Lok Sabha, would have been a natural choice. He is a highly acceptable leader and has been known for his parliamentary and administrative skills. But being 77, he is considered as being over the hill now.

Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Rajya Sabha Member Om Mathur, both backed by the RSS, are also aspirants for the CM’s post should the party come to power. But it would bear to recall that Vasundhara Raje had proved too strong once when while serving as CM, she did not allow Shekhawat, who was on the verge of being appointed as BJP’s state unit president, to assume the position.

This, incidentally, had also annoyed both Modi and Shah no end since he was their nominee for the post.

Incidentally, Shekhawat, who is serving as Union minister for Jal Shakti, was the key person who tried to topple the Ashok Gehlot government two years ago. Though he is in the good books of both Modi and Shah,

Shekhawat lacks any mass connection in the state. His influence is confined to Jodhpur and he is not known by the party cadre outside that.

Notably, even though Raje is not favoured by either Modi or Shah, she commands the support of 56 out of the 74 party MLAs and there are half a dozen MPs out of the 25 who still recognise her as the leader.

During the three-day executive meeting of the BJP in Jaipur, Raje, Shekhawat, Punia, and Rajendra Singh Rathor would obviously all try to lobby for themselves in the eyes of the party's leadership. Political analysts would be keenly watching such developments.

The body is meeting in the Pink City to finalise strategies for the 12 states that would go to Assembly polls before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There are 151 Lok Sabha seats in these states and the party is preparing plans for winning the Vidhan Sabha elections and subsequently retaining the Lok Sabha seats in 2024.

The party, as a policy, would also decide whether it should project individuals as Chief Ministerial candidates or project Modi and the policies of the NDA government as a poll plank.

The BJP will work out strategies at the booth level and educate the masses on the various welfare schemes launched by the party for the poor and the downtrodden.

The meet would open on Friday with a virtual address by Prime Minister Modi that would be followed by various groups meeting at a five-star hotel.

The various state unit presidents and secretaries of the BJP will meet on May 21, the concluding day of the national executive's conclave.

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