Who will take on Gehlot, Raje or Sekhawat? Anxious BJP looks for names
Sekhawat, overshadowed by Raje in Rajasthan politics, aspires to the top seat quietly, while the former CM is keen on fielding loyalists and becoming the 'CM face'
Struggling to keep its flock together in Rajasthan, the Bharatiya Janta Party is facing another big crisis in the poll bound state: who will take on Congress stalwart and incumbent chief minister Ashok Gehlot?
According to sources, the BJP has been mulling over two heavyweights who can be pitted against Gehlot: Union jal shakti minister Gajendra Singh Sekhawat, or former chief minister Vasundhra Raje.
Those in the know told National Herald that following the Madhya Pradesh template where three union ministers have been dispatched to fight the assembly polls, Sekhawat, who won the Lok Sabha election from Jodhpur, could be pitted against Gehlot from the Sardarpura assembly seat.
Gehlot has been elected from Sardarpura five times. In 2018, he defeated BJP's Shambhu Singh Khetasar by 45,597 votes.
A frequent visitor to Sardarpura, Sekhawat has been very vocal against Gehlot and even launched personal attacks on the Congress stalwart, to the point where an FIR was filed against him for using inappropriate language against Gehlot.
Rajasthan watchers say Sekhawat, whose career was overshadowed by Vasundhra Raje in state politics, is an aspirant for the top chair in case the BJP wins. He has been nursing his ambition silently for a long time, and is the best option the BJP has against Gehlot.
Some media reports claimed that former chief minister and a member of the state's erstwhile royal family Vasundhra Raje may be pitted against Gehlot, though she has been at loggerheads with the BJP high command which invariably means Modi-Shah.
Sources said maharani ji (the queen) has not responded to the offer yet, and BJP insiders said she was approached only after many BJP ‘stalwarts’ refused to contest against Gehlot.
Raje taking on Gehlot will be interesting but unlikely, said a Jaipur-based journalist. It is believed that Raje who won four assembly elections from the Jhalrapatan seat, helped Gehlot save his government in 2020, following the Sachin Pilot-led rebellion within the party. Pilot often attacked Gehlot and Vasundhra in the same breath during those turbulent weeks.
It is easy to believe that Raje would not contest against Gehlot, but would like her candidate to be chosen as the challenger to Gehlot, say Rajasthan watchers.
In fact, she is said to be hell bent on fielding as many loyalists as possible, and vetoing those who might go against her in Rajasthan. She is also adamant that she should be declared the 'CM face' before the polls. While watchers have no doubts that she is the state's most popular BJP leader (an ABP-C Voter survey in July 2023 found that while 36 per cent of BJP supporters wanted to see Raje as the CM, 33 per cent wanted a fresh face), she is not in a position to defeat the Gehlot-led Congress government which is expected to come back to the power defying the revolving-door model.