Rajasthan BJP a divided house, with supporters and detractors of ex-CM Vasundhara Raje slugging it out

A group of BJP leaders are keen to assume the CM’s post if the party comes to power in the state even as the former CM’s followers maintain that she remains a force to reckon with

Photo courtesy social media
Photo courtesy social media

Prakash Bhandari

The Rajasthan BJP appears to be a divided house of late, with a group of people fancying their chances to lead the state as CM in place of two time chief minister Vasundhara Raje if the party comes to power in the state, even as her supporters maintain that she remains a powerful figure in the state.

The ‘anti-Raje’ group has been trying to keep her out from the saffron party’s mainstream affairs. She has also been sidelined by the present executive of the party’s state unit headed by president Satish Poonia.

Vasundhara Raje has not been politically active of late, but she commands the confidence and respect of at least 45 of the 71 party’s MLAs which include a number of her former Cabinet colleagues and senior party leaders like Kailash Meghwal, Kali Charan Saraf, Pratap Singh Singhvi and Yunus Khan.

Her supporters in the party have, in fact, also floated a forum called ‘Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Rajasthan Manch’ which is engaged in sending across a message to the party’s cadre that she is still a force to reckon with.

The forum is headed by a non-descript leader named Vijay Bhardwaj who insists that when the elections for the Vidhan Sabha are held in 2023, Raje would lead the party to victory and become the chief minister for the third time.

“This forum has been set up to strengthen the hands of Vasundhara Raje who carried out remarkable development in the state during her two tenures as the chief minister. She was the CM from 2003 to 2008 and then from 2013 to 2018 and this was the time when the state witnessed development. This forum is not a parallel political outfit, but formed to strengthen the BJP. We have our presence in 28 districts. The sole aim of the forum is to bring back the BJP into power under the leadership of Vasundhara Raje,” says Bhardwaj.

Asked to comment about the forum, Poonia said that its formation was very much in the knowledge of the state unit of the BJP and the party’s high command.

Commenting on the ‘infighting’, AICC general secretary and state PCC president Govind Singh Dotasara said that the BJP, which was keen to destabilise the Ashok Gehlot government, is itself in a state of disintegration.

Dotasara added that the BJP is heading for ‘doom’ because of this infighting and the commitment of the Congress to serve people by carrying out development in the state which would help it return to power in 2023.

The controversy surrounding Raje was triggered when BJP president J P Nadda summoned Satish Poonia, leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria and deputy leader Rajendra Singh Rathor to discuss the party’s strategies to contest three bye-elections in the state. The fact that Vasundhara Raje was not invited did not go unnoticed and sent ripples among her followers.

They were irked that she was not being consulted about the party’s affairs by the high command and blamed ‘wrong feedback’ about her by ‘vested interests’. They felt that it was due to a move by certain people aspiring for the chief minister’s post if and when the party came to power in the state.

It is a matter of common knowledge that aspirants for the post include Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is an arch-rival of Vasundhara Raje, and Arjun Meghwal – who considers himself as the leader of the Dalits – besides Poonia, Kataria and Rajendra Singh Rathor.

Though these leaders are aware of Raje’s popularity and large following among the party’s cadre, they are trying to create space for themselves as they feel that the party’s high command is looking for new leadership to replace her.

Political observers feel that since Vasundhara Raje’s supporters have now organised themselves, she would be given due importance by the party’s top leadership.

Raje, it is learnt, is also planning to tour the state and meet party workers in all districts to make her presence felt and stage a comeback, besides sending a message to the party’s leadership that she remains a leader to be reckoned with.

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