After Lok Sabha Setback, BJP Needs Vasundhara Raje To Win Assembly By-Polls In Rajasthan

Nishtha Anushree

Jul 09, 2024, 03:45 PM | Updated 04:16 PM IST

Vasundhara Raje Scindia's absence was felt as BJP lost ground in Rajasthan Lok Sabha elections
Vasundhara Raje Scindia's absence was felt as BJP lost ground in Rajasthan Lok Sabha elections
  • The BJP needs the by-poll wins after losing Lok Sabha ground in Rajasthan, and for that, they need Vasundhara Raje.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) streak of Lok Sabha clean sweeps in Rajasthan came to an end this year.

    After winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 2019, the BJP won only 14 seats in 2024. The main opposition party, the Congress, won eight seats.

    Political observers attribute the BJP's poor performance to the absence of former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

    She was seen campaigning for her son, Dushyant Singh, in the Jhalawar-Baran constituency rather than canvassing for the party statewide.

    It appears that Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma has realised Raje's importance. He met the former chief minister at her official residence on 7 July ahead of the by-polls for five assembly seats in the state.

    The meeting followed Rajasthan Agriculture Minister Kirodi Lal Meena's resignation over the BJP's loss in Dausa, as he had vowed publicly to do so.

    Sharma has not yet accepted Meena's resignation, as it would also put moral pressure on the chief minister to take responsibility for the electoral result.

    Moreover, Meena is considered close to Raje. Sharma might even have met Raje to persuade Meena to take back his resignation. He met Raje on the day Meena announced his resignation.

    Both Raje and Meena took the blessings of Shankaracharya Swami Nishchalanda Saraswati in Jaipur on 4 July. After their pictures came out, speculation started over Raje's role in Meena's resignation.

    Chief Minister Sharma is under pressure from the BJP leadership over the Lok Sabha losses. However, he is getting the benefit of the doubt, as the election was fought under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    But he will have no such excuses left if the party loses the assembly by-polls, and hence, he is making efforts to consolidate the vote bank by convincing Raje to actively campaign.

    By-polls are to be held in Dausa, Jhunjhunu, Deoli-Uniyara, Khinvsar, and Chorasi, as their members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) were elected as members of Parliament (MPs) in the recently held Lok Sabha election.

    However, the BJP has nothing to lose, as three of these seats were held by the Congress and the other two by Hanuman Beniwal's Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) and Bharat Adivasi Party (BAP).

    That makes the situation more challenging for the party, as the BJP has not been able to win these seats for over a decade.

    Deoli-Uniara, Dausa, and Chorasi were last won by the BJP in 2013, when Raje led the party to victory and the BJP formed the government in the state.

    Jhunjhunu is the most difficult seat for the BJP, as Jhunjhunu MP Brijendra Singh Ola has held this seat since 2008, and the BJP last won it in 2003 when Raje became chief minister for the first time.

    The Khinvsar assembly seat has been held by Beniwal and his brother since its formation through delimitation in 2008.

    When Beniwal won the Nagaur Lok Sabha election in 2019, his brother Narayan won the by-polls. It is expected that RLP will once again field Narayan for the by-polls. Hanuman won the Lok Sabha election.

    Notably, the BJP won this seat in 2008, when (Hanuman) Beniwal was its candidate. In 2023, BJP candidate Revat Ram Danga lost to Beniwal by a margin of just 2,000 votes, giving hope to the party.

    Besides the by-polls and Meena, Sharma might have discussed cabinet expansion with Raje, which is expected to be held in August. It is believed that non-performing ministers will be replaced. Also, six positions are vacant in the cabinet, allowing room for expansion.

    However, cabinet expansion is likely to be kept on hold until the by-polls, as the newly elected MLAs can also be appointed as ministers.

    The BJP is yet to decide its candidates for the by-polls. Sharma is believed to have sought Raje's advice in choosing candidates. On the other hand, the Congress is likely to give tickets to the relatives of outgoing MLAs.

    Finally, more than the content of the discussions between Raje and Sharma, what matters is that the BJP needs Raje. It remains to be seen how she responds.

    Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.

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