New Delhi: A collective leadership and a united state unit is the message BJP president J.P. Nadda delivered to the state leadership and senior leaders of Rajasthan, during a meeting on the party’s strategy for the 2023 Rajasthan assembly elections Tuesday. Rajasthan has been a big concern for the BJP high command, with ex-CM Vasundhara Raje defying the high command’s attempt to nurture and promote a new generation of leaders in the state and end the two-decade long ‘Raje era’ here.
Tuesday’s high-level meeting, at Nadda’s Delhi residence, was attended by former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, state BJP president Satish Poonia, union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Shekhawat and leader of opposition in the Rajasthan assembly Gulab Chand Kataraia, among others. BJP general secretary B.L. Santosh, state in-charge Arun Singh, union ministers Arjun Meghwal and Gajendra Shekhawat, were also present in the meeting.
With just about a year left for the Rajasthan assembly elections, the BJP state unit continues to be marred by factionalism, which the party feels can affect their chances in the assembly polls, said sources.
“To end factionalism and bring all leaders from the state on a single platform Nadda ji called a meeting of Rajasthan BJP leaders at his residence. The message he conveyed to the state unit, as well as all the senior leaders, was to stay united, end the constant in-fighting, and as far as elections are concerned, to leave the decision on the CM face to the high command and focus and rely on brand Modi for now,” said a senior BJP leader present at the meeting.
Nadda’s meeting comes days after senior BJP leader and general secretary B.L. Santhosh concluded his tour of Rajasthan, during which he too stressed on the importance of collective leadership, and asked state leaders to refrain from making controversial statements.
“Earlier too, when senior leaders, including Amit Shah ji, Arun Singh ji and recently B.L. Santhosh ji, had visited the state, they all stressed on collective leadership and had also told the state unit and the Rajasthan leaders that the decision on the CM face is not for them to discuss or take. The same message was delivered by Nadda ji,” the leader quoted
The state leadership has also been told by central leaders that PM Modi is the biggest brand and face of the party, and they should not worry about the leadership issue in the state as that will be decided by the party high command.
“The recent assembly elections (BJP won in four states last month) have been won by the party relying on brand Modi and the underlying message in the meeting seemed to be the same, to focus on PM Modi during the elections. Modi is the biggest leader we have and hence for now the leadership issue is something that need not go beyond that,” said a second senior BJP leader.
According to sources, Nadda also emphasised in the meeting that the stand taken by state unit leaders on all issues should be similar. The BJP president is also said to have told state leaders that party activities should be attended by all and that no one should indulge in any kind of blame-game.
Raje and the rift with the central leadership
The BJP’s Rajasthan unit has been marred by factionalism since before the 2018 assembly elections — which the party lost to the Congress — with Raje, who was seen as someone close to veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, sharing an uneasy relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former party president Amit Shah.
As chief minister until 2018, she brooked no interference from the central leadership in state affairs. However, she was sidelined after the 2018 assembly polls. Reports of friction between the state unit president Poonia and Raje have been a constant worry for the BJP top brass ever since the former’s appointment in 2019.
Last year, supporters of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje had formed a ‘Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch Rajasthan’, with the demand that she be declared the party’s chief ministerial face for the 2023 elections.
Raje was in Delhi earlier this month to meet central leaders, and was also present on the dais for the swearing-in ceremony of Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on 23 March.
Many in the party feel that the time is now right to project a united face while taking on the opposition in next year’s elections.
According to sources, the state unit had come prepared with a presentation on the different regions and the strategy the party is following for the elections.
According to a third party leader, Nadda is likely to visit the state in May.
“All the leaders have been told that they need to stay united and participate in all the official functions and put an end to the constant bickering that has been going on for quite some time. They have also been told to be more aggressive in countering the Congress in the state and follow party discipline,” added the leader.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)