JAIPUR: The 2019 Lok Sabha election has changed the political dimensions of the BJP and Congress in Rajasthan with both parties looking to usher in a new leadership in the state.
The desert state for over 20 years has been a witness to alternate rule under the BJP and Congress who have taken turns to lead the state under the respective leadership of Vasundhara Raje and current Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Raje has been a two-time chief minister while Gehlot is serving his third term as chief minister in the state.
Post-2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP in the state has seen anti-Raje cadre being elevated to higher ranks.
For the last 15 years, Raje was seen as holding the centrestage in state politics leading the BJP show, however, the elevation of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Meghwal and Kailash Chaudhary in central ministries and the surprise pick of Om Birla as Lok Sabha Speaker has definitely boosted the anti-Raje camp.
All these leaders were never supported by Raje in Rajasthan. Shekhawat's candidature for BJP state president was openly opposed by Raje and her camp after the party witnessed a debacle in by-polls in Ajmer, Alwar and Mandalgarh in 2018.
Similarly, a ticket to Meghwal was opposed by Raje followers during 2019 election. Chaudhary in Barmer also did not find support during campaigning by the Raje camp.
Similarly, Birla despite being elected as MLA thrice under the Raje government wasn't given any ministry. In 2013, he resigned as MLA, contested the Lok Sabha election and emerged as a winner. His affinity with the central leadership continued growing thereafter.
Raje also made all attempts to ensure Birla did not get a ticket for the Lok Sabha polls, but the central leadership backed him and he returned their trust by winning by a huge margin.
In fact, many other leaders from the anti-Raje camp were given tickets which include Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore and Diya Kumari. An alliance was also formed with RLP of Hanuman Beniwal who split from the BJP and formed his own party due to his differences with Raje.
Now, Jodhpur MP Shekhawat is a Cabinet minister, Meghwal and Chaudhary are ministers of state and Birla is Lok Sabha Speaker.
The Rajasthan BJP looks like paving the way for a new leadership in the state. Raje was given the designation of BJP national vice-president. However, she neither contributed on national map nor at state level. The helicopter given to her for campaigning was also not used fully, said a BJP leader adding that the next Assembly election will definitely see a new chief ministerial face.
Why the party failed to form a government after the Assembly election and yet made a clean sweep in the parliamentary election five months later is a question being raised by party officials, he said adding that the central leadership took over the task for the parliamentary polls and the results are apparent.
The story of the Congress is no different from the BJP in Rajasthan.
Gehlot has led the Congress show as Chief Minister for two terms however his third tenure came with loads of challenges.
Soon after the Assembly polls, Pradesh Congress Chief chief Sachin Pilot also pitched himself for the Chief Minister's post as he had done the groundwork for the party's win, however, he had to be content with being Deputy Chief Minister while Gehlot was again anointed as Chief Minister after the intervention of the central leadership.
Meanwhile, things became difficult for Gehlot after Congress lost all 25 Lok Sabha seats under his charge even though the party formed the government in the state just five months ago.
Also, the defeat of his son Vaibhav who contested from Jodhpur, his home turf for around 40 years, made things all the more tough for him.
The central leadership accused him of giving more attention to his son's constituency while neglecting other seats of the state. Many party MLAs also raised a demand for leadership change pitching for promoting Pilot as Chief Minister.
A Congress spokesperson speaking to IANS said, "Gehlot's name runs on top for party president as Rahul Gandhi stands adamant on his decision to quit. However, the CM has reservations on the same as if he goes to the national capital, definitely, there will be a new leadership coming in bringing in fresh hopes for the party.
"On the other hand, things will become difficult in the state as Gehlot is a good manager and knows how to manage independents and the BSP which strenghtened the party in the state by extending its support. Further, even if he continues his in present term as CM, the party will definitely look for a new leader who can be a fresh face as the age factor goes against Gehlot to be the Chief Ministerial face in the next election."
Party sources said Gehlot can be asked to become Congress president for some time and till then, he can designate another leader as Chief Minister.
"There are also chances that he takes Pilot along and asks Rahul Gandhi to lead a young team and make the party stronger in Delhi while he, along with Ahmed Patel and other senior leaders, strengthen the party under Sonia Gandhi's vision. The young leaders including Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Milind Deora, and Meenakshi Natarajan can form vital soldiers of Rahul Gandhi's new army," the spokesperson said.