JAIPUR: With former CM Vasundhara Raje remaining absent from the campaign trail, political circles in Rajasthan are abuzz about a rift in the BJP even as the nomination process for the three byelections ended on Tuesday. The party candidates for the three seats in Rajsamand, Sahada and Sujangarh filed their nominations and held major rallies and public meetings but Raje was nowhere to be seen.
The infighting in the state BJP is seen as the reason for Raje staying away, with her pictures not being put up on posters and banners for any of the three party candidates. In the online posters created by the BJP’s social media cell, Vasundhara is missing - though all other tall leaders of the party from PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP National President JP Nadda, to state BJP chief Satish Poonia, Leader of Opposition Gulab Kataria and Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore are seen in the posters.
In the nomination rallies and meetings for the three BJP candidates, except Raje most other leaders of the party were spotted in different places. At the rallies in Rajsamand and Sahada, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, state chief Satish Poonia and Leader of Opposition Gulab Kataria were seen together in support of party nominees. Similarly, at the rally for Sujangarh seat, Rajasthan in-charge Arun Singh and Deputy Leader of Opposition Rajendra Rathore were quite active and prominent.
In contrast, there was confusion whether Raje had even been included in the list of star campaigners for the bypolls but BJP sources have confirmed that she is very much a part of the list. The other star campaigners in the list include the three Union ministers from Rajasthan - Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Arjun Ram Meghawal and Kailash Chaudhary - and other state leaders like Satish Poonia, Gulab Kataria and Rajendra Rathore.
BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek remarked, “All leaders of a special category are a part of our list of star campaigners. Vasundhara ji is our national Vice President but how she is to be utilised at the state or national level will be decided by the party high command. She will be accorded all due importance in the bypolls in the state.”
For several months, infighting in the Rajasthan BJP has been intense and the state unit is virtually divided among her loyalists and critics. Raje loyalists have often claimed that the party has sidelined her ever since the party lost the 2018 elections. In recent weeks, they have been openly demanding that she should be the CM face in the 2023 assembly elections.
BJP national president JP Nadda who had visited Jaipur in February had even got Raje and her arch rival Satish Poonia to raise hands together in a bid to bridge the rift in the state unit. Nadda had also stressed on the need for unity in the party ahead of the assembly bypolls. But his words seem to have been of no avail.