The BJP has zeroed in on Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat, a Rajput, for the post. CM Vasundhara Raje believes this appointment will alienate the Jat voters.
New Delhi: A week after BJP national president Amit Shah conveyed to Vasundhara Raje that his choice of candidate, and not hers, will be appointed Rajasthan’s party president, the chief minister’s “stiff and angry resistance” has kept the BJP from making any final announcement yet.
In a meeting between Shah and Raje held in Delhi on 13 June, the party high command had communicated to the chief minister that Jodhpur MP and Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat would be appointed Rajasthan BJP president.
Shekhawat had been backed by Shah; Raje, on the other hand, had pushed for candidates such as state minister Shrichand Kriplani and senior state leader Laxminarayan Dave.
According to highly-placed sources in the party, Raje has been “very angry” since the meeting and has told the high command that with this choice the party would suffer in terms of seats, not just in the year-end assembly polls but also in the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The high command, sources said, is learnt to have told her to leave the issue of elections to it. Raje, however, is persisting with her line.
The ball is now firmly in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s court, said the sources. But it seems less likely that the top leadership would change its decision to appoint Shekhawat.
After the BJP lost the Ajmer and Alwar Lok Sabha bypolls earlier this year by massive margins, and with her greatly diminished popularity and stature in the state, Raje’s bargaining power has reduced significantly, giving the central leadership an upper hand.
The crisis in Jammu and Kashmir, precipitated by the murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari last Thursday, followed by the BJP’s decision to quit the coalition government in the state has also distracted the high command from the Rajasthan issue.
Raje, sources said, has repeatedly conveyed to the central leadership that if Shekhawat — a Rajput — is appointed, the crucial Jat community will desert the BJP, given the history of rivalry between the two communities.
The party, she has warned, would face a “wipe-out” in the polls.
Shekhawat’s relative inexperience, given he is just a first-time MP, has also been quoted by many in the Rajasthan unit who back Raje.
Raje is also concerned that her son — Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Singh, a Jat (his father was the erstwhile Jat Maharaja of Dholpur) — will face the brunt of the community’s backlash if a Rajput is given primacy.
Moreover, Shekhawat is known to be close to the party’s central leadership, and Raje would want her loyalists in positions of power so she can retain control. With Shekhawat, Raje is aware she could cede space to Shah.
In fact, the tussle between Shah and Raje is what has stalled the appointment of a new party president ever since 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, making it clear that intra-party differences were delaying the decision in Rajasthan.