New Delhi: The supporters of former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje will Monday launch a state office for their campaign, taking their pitch for the BJP leader a step forward.
Members of the ‘Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch Rajasthan’ — a group set up this January, with the demand that she be declared the party’s chief ministerial face for the 2023 elections — say Raje herself is not connected with the initiative.
The inauguration of the Jaipur-based office comes days after Union minister Bhupender Yadav set political circles abuzz by saying at his ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ rallies that the 2023 elections will be contested under the leadership of “Team Rajasthan” led by state BJP chief Satish Poonia. The statements invoking “Team Rajasthan” were seen as conveying the BJP’s reluctance to project Raje, a two-term chief minister who has a strained relationship with the party brass, as the CM face.
“We had formed this outfit to take forward the ideology of Raje ji. We have also formed our teams at the state and district level and it was felt that we should have our own official address too,” said Sandeep Verma, state president of the Scheduled Castes Morcha in ‘Team Vasundhara Raje’.
Asked if Raje will attend the ceremony, Verma said she’s not involved in the functioning of the group.
“She’s in Delhi and this is our programme. She has nothing to do with the organisation, and the supporters run it. Those who want to further her ideology of helping people. We did a lot of work during the Covid-19 lockdown and it was appreciated by all,” Verma added. “We will get the office inaugurated by either sants or a senior person of the area.”
Ashok Sharma, state incharge of ‘Team Vasundhra Raje’, said “apart from the state functionaries, a number of MLAs (who belong to the Raje camp) will also attend the inauguration ceremony”.
Sources in the state BJP, however, dismissed the claim that she isn’t involved with the endeavour. “She may say it has been launched by supporters and she has no role to play, but, in reality, she is actively involved,” a senior BJP leader said.
Some BJP leaders have alleged Raje’s active involvement in the samarthan manch — which includes people associated with the party, who don’t hold any position in the BJP — since its launch.
In what many in the BJP call a “parallel system”, the organisation has placed teams at the state and district level and conducts its own programmes.
A few members of the state unit have also complained about the fact that while the party was carrying out its ‘Seva hi Sangathan’ programme — a welfare initiative launched by the BJP ahead of the seventh anniversary of its government, to help the needy during the Covid-19 pandemic — Raje was “running parallel welfare programmes of her own”.
“Right from running a campaign called ‘Vasundhara Jan Rasoi’ to distributing food packets in the state, Team Vasundhara organised a number of events. Even when they organised such programmes, the focus remained on Raje and the party was completely sidelined,” said a second BJP leader who didn’t wish to be named. “This doesn’t give a good message.”
During the BJP’s ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’ rallies this month, Raje stayed absent but was said to have “made her presence felt” by ensuring her pictures on the official posters.
Amid the tensions between Raje and the party brass, former minister Rohitashva Kumar Sharma, who is considered a close aide of her, was expelled from the party in July for six years on charges of breach of discipline.
He had been critical of the state unit and said no other leader can match Raje’s stature.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)