Never before has the BJP faced such a crisis over the nomination of a chief minister as it is facing now, discovers Prakash Bhandari, veteran observer of Rajasthan politics.
Two-time Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who was sidelined by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s central leadership and was not projected as the chief minister during the assembly election campaign, is on the war path.
Raje, 70, is hell-bent on becoming chief minister for the third time and has picked up cudgels against the party’s central leadership.
Some 45 BJP MLAs who won the Vidhan Sabha election went to her residence in Jaipur soon after the results were declared on December 3, 2023 and this led the BJP leadership in both the state and at the Centre to believe that Vasundhara Raje is lobbying to become chief minister again.
Her supporters claimed that the 45 MLAs met her only to seek her blessings and her detractors should not read any meaning into it.
Her supporters also say she commands the support of 75 MLAs and these legislators will reveal their backing for Vasundhara Raje when the central observers — Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pande and BJP national General Secretary Vinod Tawde — meet with the MLAs on Sunday, December 10, in Jaipur.
Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant Singh, the Lok Sabha MP from Jhalawar in Rajasthan, met BJP national President J P Nadda this week to press her claim for the chief ministership .
The BJP’s central leadership is in no mood to give her a third term as chief minister, but Narendra D Modi, Amit A Shah and Nadda understand that she may lead a revolt against the party and even form a government with the outside support of the Congress, which has 69 MLAs in the new assembly.
She could also get the support of eight Independents who won as BJP rebels, 1 Rashtriya Lok Dal MLA, 1 Congress Independent and the lone BSP MLA.
The BJP is trying to persuade Vasundhara to accept the position of Speaker which she is unwilling to accept.
Vasundhara Raje pins her hope on Ashok Gehlot lending her Congress support to ensure that the BJP fails to form the government.
If Vasundhara breaks away from the BJP and forms a government, the Congress could sew up an alliance with her faction for next summer’s Lok Sabha election.
Vasundhara Raje led the party to victory in 2003 and then in 2013. She was projected as the chief ministerial candidate in 2003, 2008, 2013 and 2018. But the party’s current leaders feel that the party could never retain power when she was chief minister.
Never before has the BJP faced such a crisis over the nomination of a chief minister as it does now.
The party leadership appears keen to make Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnav, who hails from Pali district in Rajasthan, chief minister, but it would wait to review the report of the central observers about the mood of the party’s legislators.
The party has also shortlisted Union Water Resources Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Diya Kumari and Mahant Balaknath, who resigned from the Lok Sabha after they were elected MLAs last Sunday.
Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (retd) and Rajya Sabha MP Dr Kirori Lal Meena, who also won the Vidhan Sabha election, too resigned as MPs.
Vaishnav, 52, an engineering graduate from Jodhpur’s MB Engineering College, did his MTech from IIT-Kanpur. He also has an MBA from Wharton in the US. For the past three decades, he has remained outside Rajasthan after joining the IAS as an officer of the Odisha cadre in 1994.
He is not in touch with the political and social set up of Rajasthan and during the Vidhan Sabha election campaign, he did not tour the state even once.
The party’s central leadership is keen to project this Brahmin technocrat as a chief minister who will alter the face of Rajasthan.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat hails from Jodhpur as Ashok Gehlot does and has a running feud with the Congress leader.
Gehlot had alleged that Shekhawat siphoned off funds from a credit society he was director of and bought land in Ethiopia, which led to the BJP leader filing a defamation suit against the then CM.
Diya Kumari, who hails from the royal family of Jaipur, was elected from Rajsamand and is known for her diligent work as an MP and MLA.
Mahant Balak Nath heads the Baba Mast Nath sect in Rohtak, Haryana. Though born in Behror in Alwar district, he has lived in Haryana like his mentor Mahant Chand Nath. His candidature is backed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Baba Ramdev.
The next 48 hours will see which way the camel turns in Rajasthan, and who Modi and Shah decide to appoint as the state’s chief minister.
Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com
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