In the midst of the frenzy of Lok Sabha elections and candidate selection, one person conspicuous by her absence is former chief minister and BJP national vice-president Vasundhara Raje.
Raje, who has been has been two-time chief minister, five-time MP and five-time MLA, was once the power centre in the state. After her entry into the state politics in 1984, the Rajasthan BJP has been synonymous with Raje.
In earlier elections, Raje took all the important decisions regarding ticket distribution and the campaign. But, after the loss in 2018 assembly elections, Raje seems to have taken a back seat.
“After the Balakot air strikes, the Centre and Modi have emerged stronger vis-a-vis other leaders,” said political analyst Narayan Bareth. She’s being consulted but as one among several state leaders, he says.
Bareth says Raje is now working as per the high command. “Her ties with Modi and Shah have been tepid. She doesn’t have backing of party leaders in Delhi and so her decision-making role has diminished.”
The BJP leaders said that party general secretary (organisation) Chandrashekhar and Rajasthan election in-charge Prakash Javadekar who are chairing meetings, meeting people and taking decisions. Recently, Shah called Gulab Chand Kataria and Rajendra Rathore to Delhi for feedback on elections and candidates.
Raje’s office in the BJP headquarters in Jaipur has been made into the election management committee office where Javadekar sits.
It is such small changes that are leading to speculation about the political future of Raje, who has kept a low profile after the BJP lost the assembly polls. She was not available for comment despite repeated attempts but her supporters denied that she was being sidelined.
A leader said the party high command wants Raje to contest the Lok Sabha polls and shift to the Centre so her political acumen and administrative skills can be used there. Raje, however, is averse to moving out of Rajasthan and wants her son and present MP Dushyant Singh to contest from Jhalwar-Baran seat, the family pocket borough.
“Shifting out of Rajasthan does not mean that she will not have a role to play here. She is our most popular leader and an asset,” the leader said.
The power shift became apparent after the BJP lost the by-polls in February 2018 when the high command tried to promote a new leadership in Rajasthan, says Bareth. Raje’s confidant Ashok Parnami, who was the state party president, was asked to step down.
Jodhpur MP and union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was the high command’s choice but Raje vetoed his name. Eventually, Madanlal Saini emerged as the compromise candidate as the central leadership realized they could not risk alienating Raje.
During the assembly elections too Raje had her way on ticket distribution. But, after the loss in the elections, her position has become tenuous, party leaders said.
The party leadership preferred senior leader Gulab Chand Kataria over Raje as leader of opposition. The party’s announcement that Raje would be in-charge of Lok Sabha polls in Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Bengal and Maharashtra, seen as a move to distance her.
Other changes have been made in the state organization and new office bearers considered close to the RSS have been appointed while Raje’s confidants have been weeded out, party leaders said.
BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek denied Raje was inactive. “She will campaign in Rajasthan and other states where she has been given responsibility once the campaign begins.” Regarding her low-profile, he said, “In the assembly election she was our CM face and was seen more. This is the Lok Sabha election so now central leaders will be seen more.”
Ashok Parnami, considered her close confidante, said in the Lok Sabha the central leadership naturally had a larger role to play but the state leadership including Raje was being consulted.
Mar 20, 2019 11:19 IST
Article source: https://www.hindustantimes.com/lok-sabha-elections/lok-sabha-elections-2019-testing-times-ahead-for-former-rajasthan-cm-vasundhara-raje/story-ZSP1z0SOSNndJHutessuzM.html