New Delhi: Union Minister Bhupender Yadav’s repeated assertions about “Team Rajasthan” forming the government in 2023 has got political circles in the state abuzz, with BJP leaders interpreting it as an indication of the party’s reluctance to declare two-term chief minister Vasundhara Raje as its face for the assembly elections.
Raje has been at loggerheads with the BJP high command and has not been attending party meetings. Although she is the tallest BJP leader in the state with a mass base, the party’s high command in Delhi has been looking to promote a new generation of leaders.
Addressing meetings as part of his Jan Ashirwad Yatra in Rajasthan last weekend, Yadav, a senior BJP leader and party strategist, has been saying that elections will be contested under the leadership of state president Satish Poonia though he evaded the question of naming the chief ministerial candidate when quizzed by reporters.
At a rally on 20 August, Yadav said that in the recently-held panchayati raj polls, the state BJP worked hard and performed well under the leadership of ‘Team Rajasthan’.
“Panchayati raj elections happened recently. Our state president is sitting here; under his leadership, ‘Team Rajasthan’ worked hard and emerged victorious,” Yadav said during the rally at Ajmer’s Kishangarh.
“Satish Pooniaji has talked about forming a BJP government in 2023, and I can say this with complete responsibility, and I know the media is also taking note of it, that in 2023 under this Team Rajasthan we are going to form the government with a three-fourth majority,” he added.
“Our state BJP team under our state president should ensure that we win the next elections and strengthen the dreams of PM Modi.
According to a senior BJP leader, Yadav mentioned the state BJP several times at different rallies.
Addressing a rally in Alwar district on 19 August, Yadav had said a wave of change has started in Rajasthan and the Ashok Gehlot government will be swept away by the “tsunami of change”.
“The enthusiasm of Team Rajasthan under the leadership of state president Satish Poonia is showing that the wave of change has started in Rajasthan,” he said.
But the BJP has been playing down the significance of remarks.
When asked about the CM face, during a press conference in Ajmer on 21 August, Yadav maintained that such decisions will be taken by the party’s parliamentary board.
“Bhupenderji praised the work related to Covid-19 done under the leadership of Satish Pooniaji. At the same time, the state unit has performed the work of the opposition in a good manner. We have raised issues related to the public. So his statements were regarding that,” said Ram Lal Sharma, chief spokesperson of the Rajasthan BJP.
Remarks come amid growing rift
The union minister’s statements, however, assume significance and have sparked a fresh debate as they come at a time when the Rajasthan BJP is battling factionalism due to the rift between Raje and the party high command in Delhi.
“Raje is also aware of the politics that is being played and she has ensured her presence by being visible in the posters of the Jan Ashirwad Yatra,” a second BJP leader said.
“While ministers, including Arjun Meghwal, Kailash Chaudhary and Gajendra Shekhawat, and other senior leaders attended the rallies, Raje did not. Her supporters want her to be declared as the CM face.”
Many in Rajasthan BJP claim that Raje is trying to run a ‘parallel system’ with the focus only on her and not the party.
In January, Raje supporters had formed the ‘Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch Rajasthan’, and demanded that she be declared as the party’s chief ministerial face for the 2023 elections.
If the Rajasthan BJP does decide to contest the elections without a CM face, it will be the second state unit to do so.
In July this year, the BJP had announced that it would contest the 2023 assembly elections in Chattisgarh without declaring a chief ministerial candidate. Many in the party had seen it as a major setback for the former chief minister Raman Singh.
ThePrint had earlier reported that the announcement regarding this had come from the BJP’s national general secretary and Chhattisgarh in-charge D. Purandeshwari.
“We will go to the people only with developmental issues in the next assembly polls. Development is going to be our face and development is going to be a key issue. The chief minister will be decided by the party after that,” Purandeshwari had said while speaking to the media in Raipur.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)