JAIPUR: Amid a severe power tussle between former CM Vasundhara Raje and the current state BJP president Satish Poonia, the Rajasthan BJP held a crucial core group meeting in Jaipur on Tuesday. The meeting is seen as a bid to effect a patch-up between Raje loyalists and her critics, especially from the RSS-backed group in the party. Raje who has skipped several important meetings at the Jaipur party office in the last two years, finally made an appearance but she reached over an hour late for Tuesday's core group meeting.
Raje’s delayed appearance was the result of her ‘power show’ as she came from Delhi to Jaipur by road. On the way, Raje supporters organised numerous felicitation programmes in different towns on the highway as Raje’s journey turned into a massive show of strength.
Raje returned to Jaipur after several days in Delhi where she met most of the BJP’s top brass. On Sunday she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP National President JP Nadda and several other top leaders during BJP's meet of national office bearers and state presidents. Her current chief rival in the state unit, Satish Poonia was also present at the same meeting of state presidents and national office bearers. Both factions were reportedly advised by the national leaders to evolve a patch up and keep a lid on internal differences.
According to party sources, strategies for the upcoming four assembly by-polls to be held in the near future and presenting a united face of the party in the state were major items on the agenda of the core committee meeting. The meeting was significant also because it was held just a day before the Budget is presented in the state assembly on Wednesday.
However, despite the advice to project a united face, Raje loyalists have in recent weeks been getting increasingly restless. A few weeks ago, Raje supporters in Kota had openly demanded that she should be declared as the BJP's CM face for the next state elections. Just a few days ago, 20 BJP MLAs ( known to be close to Raje) had written a letter to the state BJP chief and alleged partisanship and bias in allowing MLAs to raise issues of public interest in the state assembly.
On the eve of the crucial core group meeting in Jaipur on Tuesday, the infighting in the state unit resurfaced again. A former MLA, Vijay Bansal remarked, “ Vasundhara Raje is the only face in the state BJP who should be projected as CM. It is only under her leadership that the party can form a government in the state.”
Most state leaders are now tight-lipped and are trying to up a brave front to hide the reality of factionalism in the Rajasthan BJP which has now been carried even into the state assembly. However, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, Gulab Chand Kataria told the media in Jaipur that some party leaders are making too much of a display of their loyalty to some leaders. He also remarked that when elections are nearly three years away, projecting anyone as a CM face is a meaningless demand. Kataria said that “ in BJP a CM is not decided by just a few leaders but by the parliamentary Board. Also, now our party is also fighting many elections without projecting any leader as a CM face.”
Clearly, despite Raje attending the crucial core group meeting in Jaipur, the rift in the Rajasthan BJP is far from being bridged.