Rajasthan Assembly Polls: Will Defiant Raje Be Able to Hold Fort?

After defying BJP national president Amit Shah, Raje’s image now stands in stark contrast to any other CM from BJP.

3 min read
Image of Amit Shah and Vasundhara Raje used for representational purposes.

Split wide open – this explains the state of internal politics in the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and Congress in Rajasthan. Whosoever is able to manage this divide better has brighter chances of emerging victorious on 11 December 2018.

Let’s begin with the ruling party.

Raje Defies Shah

For over six months, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP National President Amit Shah have been at loggerheads. It started with the removal of Raje’s loyalist Ashok Parnami as the state BJP president, and took 74 days to get a nondescript Madan Lal Saini to take over in July.

With this defiance, Raje has portrayed an image that contrasts with that of any other BJP chief minister.

She snubbed her detractors making it clear who the boss is in Rajasthan BJP. Ever since he took over, the new party president has been a mere ceremonial name, and is hardly seen with Raje.

Take a look at this.

During the course of her recently concluded Gaurav Yatra, it was Parnami who could be seen by her side, while Saini was snubbed.

Not just that, Shah was also not to be seen anywhere in the Gaurav Yatra, other than making a symbolic presence during the flagging off. The yatra apart, the two have barely been seen together in rallies.


Power-Struggle Within BJP

Once the election dates were announced the BJP central leadership has sent Union ministers Prakash Javadekar and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and Rajya Sabha MP Om Prakash Mathur to access the ground and form election strategy .

Apart from Javadekar, the other two are not known to have the best equations with Raje.

Talk to party functionaries, and you’d know they are wondering as to who would call the shots when it comes to the selection of candidates. This is crucial for BJP and will decide its future.

According to the grapevines, to beat the anti-incumbency sentiment, BJP might cut the tickets of many sitting MLAs who would decide who contests, thus, keeping the ranks anxious and loyalties switched.

To make matters worse, recently Amit Shah announced that the district presidents of its units wouldn’t be contesting elections, causing much resentment. Many district leaders are miffed and have offered to resign in order to contest.

In the BJP, despite this power struggle, they have gone ahead and declared Raje the chief ministerial candidate and on the face of it, the party is rallying behind her. She is calling the shots and is giving her all to beat the anti-incumbency.

On the other hand, in the Congress, after three by-poll wins earlier this year, everyone from the foot-soldiers to the top-brass is sensing a victory, and is fancying their chances to make the most of the situation.


A Gehlot vs Pilot Race Within Congress?

The young Congress party chief Sachin Pilot, who has toiled and travelled across the state relentlessly for the last four and a half years, isn’t getting a similar backing of the old guard. Former CM Ashok Gehlot, despite having moved to New Delhi as AICC General Secretary, can’t seem to give up the desire to occupy 13, Civil Lines a third time.

He leaves no opportunity to feed the grapevines that he is very much in the fray for the top job.

He, in the recent past, told scribes at a gathering that, for the last 10 years, there has been a clear figure before their eyes (namely, himself), so the question of a “CM face” doesn’t arise. At rallies Gehlot keeps saying that party workers should maintain the same tempo after ticket distribution, or that those who are left out will be accommodated.

In a situation where the party seems to be in a comfortable position, the old guard not backing a young leader, namely Pilot, isn’t a healthy sign for the party.

Pilot, to his credit, has maintained a politically correct position, stating that in case of victory, the elected MLAs and high command will decide the person for top position.


Congress Will Need to Keep its Flock Together

Another challenge is that the party’s face is managing aspirations of ticket seekers. Facing paucity of funds, selecting a ‘winning face’ would be an uphill task for the young party chief.

With elections scheduled for 7 December, it would be a challenge for the Congress party to keep the flock together and maintain the momentum, whereas the BJP election machinery will try its best to find a chink in the Congress’s armour.

Let’s see who is able to hold down the fort.

(The writer is founder of @journalism_talk. He tweets @avinashkalla. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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