JAIPUR: Vasundhara Raje has failed to beat the trend of a new government every five years in Rajasthan.
However, the tough fight that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gave to the Congress is a face-saver for the outgoing chief minister.
In fact, her loyalists say she might have lost the battle against the Congress, but she has won the war within her own party.
The anti-incumbency, the anger of youth and farmers and Raje’s inaccessibility were expected to go against the BJP in the elections.
Her image of behaving like a ‘maharani’ did not endear her to the voters either. Raje was not seen as being on the same page as the BJP’s national leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is the ideological mentor of the BJP, was also understood to be miffed with her because of her decisions like the demolition of temples.
Against these odds, her supporters said Raje had done fairly well and that it would not be easy for the BJP national leadership to sideline her. Although the exit polls had predicted the BJP’s rout in the state, Raje managed a decent tally.
“In the run-up to the elections, Raje worked hard on the ground by organising ‘Gaurav Yatra’ and 122 rallies in an effort to re-connect with the masses,” a senior BJP leader said.
In her own constituency Jhalaraptan, Raje triumphed over Manvendra Singh by over 34,000 votes.
“She has performed well for the party, too, and it is a slap on the face of those critics who were hoping that a bad defeat will jeopardize her political career. The Modi-Shah duo’s plan of marginalising her after the defeat will not be easy after the current results,” another BJP leader said.
The Raje camp also pointed out that the two elections that Ashok Gehlot-led Congress had lost were big defeats.
The Congress went down to 53 and 21 seats in 2003 and 2013, respectively. On the contrary, Raje had managed a respectable tally of 78 seats in 2008, too, despite the party’s defeat. Her detractors within the party say it was the aggressive campaigning by the Modi-Shah duo which pushed up the BJP’s numbers.
However, with Lok Sabha elections are just four months away and with Raje having a strong hold over state politics, she will remain a relevant player in the BJP.
Raje, too, has made her intentions clear and signalled that she will hold to the post of the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.