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Homerajasthan'Ignored' Raje has little options, say political observers

'Ignored' Raje has little options, say political observers

Jaipur: Just a day ahead of BJP national president J P Nadda’s visit to Rajasthan, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is said to have held an unscheduled meeting with Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria, setting off speculations that some interesting political alignments may be brewing amid the Assembly polls in the state.

Kataria, 79, who is on a visit to his native place Udaipur, held a 40-minute long meeting with Raje. Kataria was supposed to be her rival in the party earlier. Political sources say both leaders, above 70, are now being systematically sidelined without making it too obvious.

What exactly transpired in the meeting is not known, but both leaders may have shared their current predicament in the party, say sources. But it has definitely generated a political buzz in the state that will g to polls on November 25.

The elevation of Kataria to governorship of Assam in February this year effectively retired him from active politics. Being from an RSS background, he could have been a contender for the chief ministerial post.Kataria, an eight-term MLA and one time Udaipur MP, served as state home minister twice from 2004 to 2008 and from 2014 to 2018.

Despite his differences with Raje over a yatra in 2012, they had a good working relationship later. With considerable clout in the Mewar-Wagad region covering around 28 Assembly seats, Kataria never wanted to leave Udaipur but now seems headed for political wilderness. Ditto for Raje, a five-term MLA and a two-time chief minister. Both have dominated the political landscape in Rajasthan for more than two decades, but are now being hurtled towards political oblivion.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stressing on collective leadership and that lotus, their party symbol being their only face, has made it amply clear that Raje is not in the race for chief ministership.

Raje, on her part, seems to have agreed to the collective leadership formula and met her known rival Gajendra Singh Shekhawat just days before Modi’s visit to Jaipur, indicating that she is on board with the formula. She, in fact, had opposed Shekhawat’s appointment as state BJP chief in 2018and did not allow it for five months,the idea of which was later shelved. That had not gone down well with the saffron party’s top brass.

“The Raje-Kataria’ meeting is more for optics, to create an atmosphere and to stay relevant in this political game of upmanship. The meet has generated enough buzz in the right political circles. Raje, understanding her position is precarious, is hoping against hope that BJP might need her at the last moment. So she has been quiet even after her supporters have been denied tickets. She is bidding her time. She has been defiant before but perhaps has understood that this time her confrontational attitude won’t work. Basically the top brass do not want powerful regional satraps, they want to go for insignificant leaders with no mass following,” Narayan Bareth, political observer and senior journalist toldDH.

Raje loyalist Kailash Meghwal, 89, who spoke againstUnion Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, has been suspended. Rajpal Singh Shekhawat, a key Raje aide, has not been given ticket from Jhotwara constituency and Narpat Singh Rajvi, son-in-law of former Vice President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and sitting MLA from Vidyadhar Nagar, has been replaced. Bhairon Singh is said to have been Raje’s political mentor. Anita Singh, two-time MLA from Nagar constituency, who indicates fighting as an Independent, says she has been denied ticket as she belonged to Raje group.

Although Raje has said BJP workers should be given more importance in the recent executive meeting, political observers say a few of her known supporters have started keeping distance from her. This was visible when she visited Banswara recently. “This was unthinkable earlier. Some of her supporters may be wary now as the central leadership has clearly indicated that Raje is not in the offing for the top post.”

Another political analyst Anil Shekhawat says : “There is an attempt to keep Raje in a confused state. She is given a prominent seat on stage, and home minister Amit Shah lets her speak. But at Prime Minister Modi’s rally in Jaipur, she was perhaps not allowed to, sending many nuanced political signals.The Parivartan yatras from four different corners of the state were also helmed by central leaders. Raje at the most can dent the BJP prospects by not supporting the candidates and nothing much else, it seems now. It is too late now for dissent.”

He adds : “If BJP’s second list denies tickets to her other loyalists like Ashok Parnami, Prahlad Gunjal, then it would be amply clear that Raje perhaps would have no big role in the party. Raje being a grassroots leader is still the strongest contender for the top post amongst the many others like Union ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhwat, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Ashwini Vaishnav, state head C P Joshi, Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla, Opposition leader Rajendra Rathore and others. But one never knows what the top two leaders are thinking. They might bring in some rank outsider or spring a surprise like Pushkar Singh Dhami in Uttarakhand, who even lost the election.”

Meanwhile, sensing trouble from rebel candidates, J P Nadda is in Udaipur and Jodhpur today, meeting leaders at the divisional level and hoping for damage control, before bringing out the second list. The second list is hoping to have names of big state leaders and on those seats, where the BJP issaid to be strong. Also there is bound to be discussion on BJP’s challenge against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in his constituency, Sardarshahar.

(Published 16 October 2023, 13:57 IST)

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