Rajasthan BJP Tussle: Leaders Silent, Supporters Vocal Even As Party Projects United Front Against Congress

by Sumati Mehrishi - Jan 28, 2021 01:51 PM
Rajasthan BJP Tussle: Leaders Silent, Supporters Vocal Even As Party Projects United Front Against CongressVasundhara Raje. (Himanshu Vyas/Hindustan Times via GettyImages) 
Snapshot
  • Everything boils down to how far Raje’s own silence is taken in people’s perception within Rajasthan.

    Her voice, and not of her supporters, is her own.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national leadership recently made an important move to bring balance in its pool of prominent leaders in Rajasthan.

In a letter dated 21 January, Arun Singh, who is state in-charge and national general secretary, said that members of the core group of the party unit in Rajasthan have been decided in consultation with national president J P Nadda.

The letter addressed to BJP state president Satish Poonia says that the core group is expected to meet every month, and if there is need, more than once a month.

A list of 12 state leaders who have been made members of the core group and another list mentioning names of four state leaders who are special invitees, follows the letter.

The list of names of leaders mentioned in the core group reflects diversity. It includes Poonia, Rajya Sabha MP Om Prakash Mathur, deputy leader of the opposition Rajendra Rathore, Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Kailash Chaudhary; leader of opposition Gulabchand Kataria, state general secretary Chandra Shekhar, state vice-president and Rajya Sabha MP Rajendra Gehlot, Lok Sabha MP Chandra Prakash Joshi and MP Kanakamal Katara.

The core group does not include Kirodi Lal Meena and Jaskaur Meena. The two leaders are active in eastern Rajasthan.

Earlier this month, senior leaders of the BJP, including Satish Poonia, Gulabchand Kataria, Arjun Ram Meghwal and Rajendra Rathore met Nadda in Delhi. Nadda is expected to visit Rajasthan in February.

The meeting of these leaders with Nadda gave rise to perceptions in sections of local media and the ruling Congress that the party is undergoing a deepening phase of factionalism in a scenario where the role and position of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje is uncertain.

Raje has been largely quiet. Others have spoken on matters concerning her.

Earlier this month, Congress MLA and Industry minister of Rajasthan, Parsadi Lal Meena, said that the BJP is zero without former chief minister Raje. He added that if BJP in Rajasthan neglects Raje, it will become miserable.

January was eventful for the Rajasthan BJP. Supporters of Raje floated an outfit in her support. They named it 'Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch'.

A section of the media is looking at Raje's inclusion in the core group as a decisive sign for her future role in the party. However, the sensationalism built around Raje's inclusion in the core group seems slightly over the top.

Raje is a senior leader. She has worked as the state’s chief minister. She now represents the state in the party's national leadership. It stirs no or little surprise that she has been included as a core group member.

Points that many seem to be missing are simple and short.

One. Her inclusion is a much awaited, neat and expected soft whip from the national leadership to the prominent leaders to think, steer, and work together. A measure to make the leaders find back the sagging discipline.

Two. There are 12 prominent leaders in the list. Raje is one of the 12.

The other 11 (including the MPs), without doubt, are also leaders capable of leading the state. Many would like to argue this point on the core issue of "popularity" of a leader or the popular "face" that will be required to pull through BJP's fight against the Congress. That is a different subject altogether.

Three: to see her 'inclusion' in the core group as an indication or signalling on her role — alone — is unfair to other prominent leaders in Rajasthan.

Four: A section of the media seemed to create an impression that Raje is being made to fit and that she is being made to adjust and make peace. This view does expose their regressive view of a woman who is ambitious.

The local media has from time to time tried to create an image of Raje as a royal in a crowd of ‘zameenee' people, and hence a misfit. This one fight for perception, assuredly, will travel with Raje in the next phase that pans out within Rajasthan.

One of her supporters and a senior leader told Swarajya that she was defeated owing to internal strife in the season of "Vasundhara teri khair nahin" (‘Vasundhara, you will not be spared’, a slogan preceding the defeat of the incumbent BJP in Rajasthan assembly elections of 2018).

So, what holds for Raje in the core group?

From the tone and contents of the letter: a share of responsibility divided into 12 (plus four).

How did Raje respond to the first meeting of the core group?

She, reportedly, did not turn up for it. The media responded with “cracks visible in BJP” line.

Gulab Chand Kataria and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav were also missing. But it was Raje's absence that made the headlines.

Parallel to these developments however, there is the other undeniable truth which the BJP’s national leadership has to work with in Rajasthan.

And that’s the problem of plenty when it comes to prominent leaders who have years of work backing them.

The core group, for example, has leaders who could easily be chief ministerial candidates.

M L Khattar in Haryana was not a "popular face". He is currently running his second term as Chief Minister in Rajasthan's neighbouring state.

Satish Poonia is not the "popular face" but is not dismissed as a prominent leader among the masses, especially during the last one year of his work of 38 years.

Sachin Khare, a leader in Rajasthan BJP tells Swarajya over the phone that Poonia has nearly 40 years of work in the state. This includes his work as the state party president, the beginning of which coincided with the Covid scenario.

He says, "When we have a conversation with the Sangh, there is no mention of any party. Yeh vishay hota hai ki desh ke liye jo sarvottam hai... BJP ki neev rastravad par aadharit hai. Panchnishtha ki pratigya lekar hee BJP mein kaam karte hain. (The issue is, what is best for the country. BJP’s foundation is on nationalism. We vow to follow the party’s five articles of faith and work accordingly)"

On the other hand, a senior leader and supporter of Raje says, "Pichhli baar bhi apnon ne hee maaraa thha (last time too we were damaged by insiders),"referring to Raje's defeat in the assembly poll.

He adds, "Vasundhara teri khair nahin, yeh managed programme thha. (‘Vasundhara, you will not be spared’ was a managed campaign) If anyone has leadership, it's her, and no one else... why does she get representation in the national leadership if she was to be thrown out. There are people who are dreaming of making it big. Hum dhadalle se bolte hain (we openly speak on issues and in her support). The public wants her back. They want her in the midst of the entire scenario."

The local media often names Poonia as the immediate rival, if not competitor, to Raje.

Supporters of Raje and Poonia have been quick in propping their leaders as the final leader for Rajasthan.

The leaders have largely remained quiet. There are times when their silence has spoken through their supporters.

BJP leaders from all rungs have been unified in their attack on Congress though. The latest came from Kataria, who is said to be "close to Amit Shah". He reportedly said that the Congress government will not last the cabinet expansion.

Khare points out that the Congress should have won in a one-sided contest in the recently held local polls. That did not happen. "It tried many ways to save itself, but all those efforts failed," he adds.

Everything boils down to how far Raje's own silence is taken in people's perception within Rajasthan. Her voice, alone, and not of her supporters, is her own.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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