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Focus on 2023 Rajasthan polls, BJP tells cadre to get rid of factionalism amid Raje rumblings

Warning from BJP General Secretary (organisation) BL Santosh comes amid a section of the Rajasthan unit putting pressure on party to name Vasundhara Raje as CM candidate for 2023 polls.

BJP flags | Representational image | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
BJP flags | Representational image | Photo: Manisha Mondal | ThePrint

New Delhi: At a time the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is busy infusing energy into its cadre by replacing chief ministers in one state after another, in-fighting in states where it is not in power is proving to be a headache. 

Concerned over the growing factionalism in the Rajasthan BJP, the party’s national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh has issued a stern warning, directing leaders to concentrate on strengthening the party, during the recently held two-day Chintan Shivir at Rajasthan’s Kumbhalgarh that concluded Thursday.

State president Satish Poonia too said a decision on the CM ministerial candidate will be taken by the parliamentary board. 

Supporters of Vasundhara Raje have been demanding that she be named as the chief ministerial candidate for the 2023 election. 

“Santhoshji asked everyone to focus on the 2023 election and work for it. He asked the leaders and the party functionaries to keep factionalism away from the party as it will only harm the organisation,” a senior BJP leader said. “His mantra was simple — focus on highlighting the work of the Modi government and present a united face.” 

This is not the first time that the central leadership has intervened. In June this year, BJP Rajasthan in-charge Arun Singh had warned party leaders that strict action would be taken against those trying to put the BJP in a tight spot.

The state unit has been battling constant infighting between supporters of former CM Vasundhara Raje and the state president Satish Poonia.

“The party’s goal of Mission 2023 is that the notion of power alternating between BJP and the Congress needs to be put to an end. We will come to power due to the policy and measures of the Modi government and the work being done at the state level by our unit,” said a second senior BJP leader. “The BJP wants to come to power on the merits of the organisation, work is being done on this action plan.” 

Though the absence of senior leaders including former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Labour and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who all hail from Rajasthan, raised eyebrows, the state unit said it was due to personal reasons. 

Also read: Why BJP and Congress are putting in all their might to win Goa, India’s smallest state

State unit beset by divisions

The in-fighting in the Rajasthan BJP predates the 2018 assembly elections — which the party lost. As chief minister until 2018, Raje brooked no interference from the central leadership in state affairs. However, she was sidelined after the 2018 assembly polls.

Over the past few months, many in the state unit have been claiming that Raje, also a party vice-president, is trying to run a ‘parallel system’ — including for Covid welfare initiatives — with the focus only on her and not the party. 

In January, her supporters formed the ‘Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch Rajasthan’, and demanded that Raje be declared the party’s chief ministerial face for the 2023 elections. Not only this, the Manch had recently launched an office in Jaipur that had raised eyebrows within the party. 

Speaking to the media after the conclusion of the Chintan Shivir, Poonia said the party will focus on the Modi government’s achievements and its own work at the state level for the 2023 election. “The decision on the chief ministerial candidate will be taken by the parliamentary board. As far as we are concerned, we are focused on strengthening the party to ensure we come to power in 2023,” he told ThePrint. 

During the meeting, discussions were held on all the 200 seats and the areas where the party needs to focus more. “A detailed discussion was held on the seats that we had won and lost and the reasons for it. It has been decided to be more aggressive in our approach in targeting the failure of the Gehlot government,” said another senior leader.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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