JAIPUR: Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s conspicuous absence from Home Minister Amit Shah’s pro-CAA rally in Jodhpur last week is creating a big buzz in Rajasthan. Shah’s mega show in favour of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) had attracted all the BJP bigwigs in the state ranging from Union Ministers Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Kailash Choudhary and Arjun Mehwal to state BJP President Satish Poonia who were all present on the stage.
While Shah came from Delhi to hold the huge rally in CM Ashok Gehlot’s home district, Raje was missing and reportedly stayed in Delhi on that day. Moreover, Raje was missing even from the posters and hoardings created for the Jodhpur rally though other BJP leaders in Rajasthan were visible on them. Sources say the key organizer for the Amit Shah rally was Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and his problems with Raje have been well-known ever since Vasundhara opposed his elevation as state BJP President in the summer of 2018.
But this is not the first time when Raje has been ignored. In fact, Rajasthan's former CM Raje seems to be struggling to find a space in the opposition lobby in Rajasthan as she is reportedly not a favourite of the powerful Modi - Shah duo who now dominate the BJP. Even at a recent pro-CAA Rally in Jaipur, Raje was given little prominence and was missing from the posters for the event. At the insistence of state BJP President Satish Poonia, she did attend the event but Raje went and sat among ordinary party workers rather than on the stage. Raje is also absent from all the multiple efforts that the BJP is making in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Rajasthan. Though Raje skipped a pro-CAA event with ex-Armymen in Rajasthan, on the same day she participated at a similar event in Haryana where she pointed out that she understood the pain of migrants and that’s why in her tenure as CM, she ensured citizenship for over 13,000 Hindu migrants from Pakistan living in Rajasthan.
Officially this has given an opportunity to defend Raje’s glaring absence from the Amit Shah rally. As party spokesperson Mukesh Pareek says, "It is unfair to say that Raje was not invited or that she stayed away from Amit Shah rally. She is still campaigning for the party in Haryana because she is a national leader. Who all will be present in a rally of Prime Minister or our party President is all decided by the party high Command."
However, Raje and her loyalists are reportedly angry at the way she is being gradually sidelined from state politics. They point out that the appointment of RSS-backed Satish Poonia as the Rajasthan BJP chief in September 2019 was a sign of how the BJP top brass was trying to marginalize Raje in the state BJP. On condition of anonymity, one senior leader close to Raje remarked, "Vasundhara Raje has been a two-time CM in Rajasthan and is still very popular with people and party workers in the state. The Central leadership may be in a strong position today but if BJP has to return to power in Rajasthan, it will be a mistake for the party to ignore Raje."
While the Amit Shah rally went off successfully in Jodhpur last week, it is Vasundhara Raje’s absence that continues to be the big buzz among political circles in Rajasthan.