JAIPUR: The appointment of Satish Poonia as the Rajasthan BJP chief on Saturday has caused a flutter in the party’s state unit in Jaipur. Poonia has a strong RSS background and his elevation is being seen as a clear sign of the near-complete marginalization of Vasundhara Raje in the state BJP.
According to party sources, Raje was not consulted or taken into confidence in Poonia's appointment.
Satish Poonia who belongs to the anti-Raje camp in the state BJP is also known for his direct contact with party workers at the grassroots level. Poonia had developed differences with Vasundhra Raje during her second term as chief minister ( 2013-2018 ). A large number of party workers and leaders congratulated him and garlanded him in the headquarters for his elevation all through the weekend. At 56, Poonia also represents the younger face of the party with the high command moving away from the established leaders and projecting younger leaders.
However, former chief minister and the current BJP national vice president, Vasundhara Raje was conspicuously absent though she is reported to have congratulated Poonia over Twitter. "Congratulations and best wishes to MLA Satish Poonia on being appointed Rajasthan BJP President . Poonia is grounded and dedicated worker. His appointment will infuse fresh energy among BJP workers" she tweeted. Unlike the previous state presidents, Ashok Parnami and Madal Lal Sainee, who were seen working under the shadow of Raje, Poonia has an independent political image which will pose him some challenges in the upcoming poll spree.
During the last 15 years, Vasundhara camp ensured that no one from RSS background gets any prominence but now Raje has been sidelined from active state politics. Raje has had a troubled relationship with RSS bosses in Rajasthan and Poonia’s elevation is a further point of aggravation for the former CM as she wanted one of her loyalists like Rajyasabha MP Narayan Pancharia or former BJP state president Arun Chaturvedi to be given the top post in the state BJP. From being denied the post of Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan assembly to her son, Dushyant Singh, being denied a ministerial post in the Modi government, Raje has been sidelined in the BJP ever since the party lost the Assembly elections in the state last December. Poonia’s elevation as state BJP Chief, is a clear reflection that the BJP’s High Command is in mood to accommodate Raje in any major way. Any plans that Raje or her loyalists were making to stage a grand comeback are now a rather remote possibility.
Political observers say that Vasundhra Raje is being made to pay the price for having opposed Amit Shah in April 2018, when BJP lost the by-polls and Raje's close aide, Ashok Parnami, had to step down from the party President's post. At the time Amit Shah wanted then state union minister of Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat to be made the new President but Vasundhara Raje rejected the idea as she was keen to have one of her own loyalists occupy the post rather than the RSS-backed Shekhawat. After a delay of 72 days Amit Shah had to take a step back and agree with making Madan Lal Saini as the new Rajasthan BJP President as a compromise candidate.
The appointment of Satish Poonia as the chief of BJP right before the local body polls is seen as a crucial move. Besides RSS support and backing, Poonia has been elevated to the top post as he belongs to the influential Jat community which forms one of the biggest vote banks in Rajasthan that has been a traditional supporter of Congress. Though the Jat leader was quick to say that taking all castes and communities along will be his priority, it may not be easy for him to even take along the Vasundhara faction in the party.
In his opening remark, Poonia gave a lot of credit to the RSS which has solidly backed his claim for the top post ."I was born in the family of a farmer and have become state party head, this can happen only in BJP. Earlier it was said that the BJP is the party of urban India, party of selected castes, people also used to say this is thr party of a cadre but now it is a cadre-based party of masses. If there is any party which can take all, it is BJP", said Poonia at BJP headquarter in Jaipur.