‘Vasundhara Raje trying to mend ties with BJP leadership’

Jaipur: Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is going all out in trying to mend her fractured relations with the BJP’s central leadership for a two-fold reason – a position for her son in the new Narendra Modi ministry and a senior rank for herself in the state unit, say party sources.

A two-time Chief Minister, she presently is neither the Leader of Opposition nor the state party President.

Asked about her present role, Union Minister and state in charge Prakash Javadekar, says: “She is a senior leader and our party’s national Vice President.”

Now, with Raje making a sudden appearance in BJP state headquarters after the party made a clean sweep in the state in the Lok Sabha polls, rumours of a leadership change in the state are doing the rounds.

Raje was seen taking the centerstage in party office, smilingly accepting greetings from party workers and participating in discussions with media on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah and their leadership.

This was in sheer contradiction to her behaviour a few days back where she was rarely seen at the party office and distancing herself from party affairs. She also did not go to any other state for campaigning.

Sources in BJP claim that Raje wants a key position for son Dushyant Singh, who has become MP for the fourth time, after winning the Jhalawar-Baran seat by a margin of over four lakh votes.

However, the central leadership is mulling over her request, as according to party policies, simultaneous posts for members of a family are not allowed. Either she or her son will be given a position, a party source said.

Another party leader said that the Central leadership had already gone “strict” in Rajasthan after the loss in the December 2018 Assembly elections, and organisational changes in the state unit are awaited.

“So before any such change comes in, Raje seems to have changed her stand of standing segregated and preferred joining hands with the party after seeing it reclaiming its lost glory during the Lok Sabha elections. She seems to be interested in mending her ties with party leadership,” the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Raje’s differences with Central leadership became quite evident after the BJP’s debacle in a string of Lok Sabha and assembly by-polls early last year. Questions began to be raised on her leadership and eventually, state President Ashok Parnami, who was considered close to her, was removed.

However, the position remained unfilled for over two months over stalemate over his successor. While the Central leadership wanted Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to lead the party in the state, Raje insisted on someone else. Finally, Madan Lal Saini was brought in to fill the post.

In this entire process, Raje’s rift with central leadership came out into the open.

Soon after the Assembly elections, Javadekar was made the Lok Sabha in charge for Rajasthan and was empowered to collect feedback for all major steps including ticket distribution.

Her state party headquarters office, which she had since 2008 including in her second chief ministerial stint, was taken over by the party’s Election Campaign Committee, headed by Javadekar, and her nameplate removed.

Raje’s lack of influence was seen as Jaipur princess Diya Kumari, and Union Ministers Shekhawat, Rajywardhan Singh Rathore and P.P. Chaudhary were fielded despite her objections.

Even Hanuman Beniwal, a former MLA who floated his Rashtriya Loktantrik Party after severing ties with the BJP owing to differences with her, was made an ally.

Now Beniwal has been elected from Nagaur and is expecting a reward as he is seen key in swinging a huge number of his Jat community’s votes towards the BJP in crucial seats such as Jodhpur, Barmer, and Sikar.

The BJP may be considering a leadership change in Rajasthan but Raje doesn’t want any change and is keen to keep herself in the reckoning for the Chief Minister’s post.

“It’s a tussle… We all are waiting for the climax to this interesting story,” a BJP leader said.