Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, backed by Shah, emerges frontrunner; party high command communicates choice to CM.
New Delhi: The impasse in the Rajasthan BJP over the appointment of its state president looks set to end soon, with the Jodhpur MP and minister of state for agriculture, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, emerging as the frontrunner for the post. The party is likely to make the announcement soon.
According to highly placed sources in the party, in a meeting held between BJP national president Amit Shah and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje Wednesday evening, the party high command communicated its final choice to the CM, despite her resistance.
It was a disagreement between Shah and Raje that had caused the delay in appointing a new party president after Ashok Parnami resigned on 18 April. The BJP state president of another poll-bound state, Madhya Pradesh, had also resigned along with Parnami but his replacement was promptly appointed.
While Shah has been backing Shekhawat, Raje had been pushing for candidates like state urban development and housing minister Shrichand Kriplani and senior state leader Laxminarayan Dave.
CM’s caste balancing act
The Rajasthan chief minister had been strongly resisting Shekhawat, known to be close to the party’s central leadership. Many in the Rajasthan unit, including Raje, feel if Shekhawat, a Rajput, is appointed, the crucial Jat community will be alienated, given the history of rivalry between the two communities. Further, Shekhawat is seen as being relatively less experienced given he is just a first-time MP.
The uneasy relationship between Shah and Raje has had other implications as well. Sources say it was Shah who insisted that Parnami resign — a move that was perceived to be an attempt to undermine Raje. In yet another instance of this tension, the term of Rajasthan chief secretary Nihal Chand Goel was not extended, as demanded by Raje, and instead, Devendra Bushan Gupta was appointed in his place.
The chief minister’s position has been diminished in the party since the BJP was routed in the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha bypolls earlier this year. Her rising unpopularity has also gone against her.
Shekhawat is also national general secretary of the BJP’s farmer wing and has, in the past, been co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch.