Over 60 MLAs owing allegiance to Ms. Raje descend on the residence of the BJP leader demanding an audience with him. The party leadership appears to have taken a serious view of the protest staged by the pro-Raje MLAs.

Reeling under the impact of the debacle in the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday witnessed an open rebellion by a group of Rajasthan MLAs, which was against the party’s decision to remove the former Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje Scindia, as leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

Even as the party was preparing for a brainstorming session next week in Shimla, about 60 MLAs owing allegiance to Ms. Raje, descended on the residence of senior leader L.K. Advani here, demanding an audience with him. However, Mr. Advani refused to meet them and the high command bluntly told them that Ms. Raje would have to step down from her post.

The party leadership appears to have taken a serious view of the protest staged by the pro-Raje MLAs.

Rajnath stands firm

BJP president Rajnath Singh, with whom the MLAs were granted an audience, stood firm on the decision holding Ms. Raje accountable for the party’s defeat in the 2008 Assembly elections and the dismal show in this year’s Lok Sabha polls and asking her to step down.

“I told the MLAs that this is not the way to express their views. They should not have come in a group. Two or three could have come,” Mr. Singh said.

“Change in responsibility is a natural process in any political party. Policy decisions are taken by the central leadership,” he asserted.

However, the MLAs, who staged a brief sit-in outside the well-fortified residence of Mr. Advani, maintained that the legislature party should decide who its leader should be.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Advani and Mr. Singh met. Though Ms. Raje is believed to be in Mr. Advani’s camp, he stuck to the stand that the collective decision of the party should be implemented. A meeting with the rebel MLAs would have sent wrong signals in the party.

But the MLAs appear to be unrelenting. “We, 62 MLAs from Rajasthan, have come to tell the central leadership that our leader will continue to be Vasundhara Raje. We want to warn them that without her the people of Rajasthan and the party unit will be nothing. We do not want a change in the leadership,” BJP chief whip Rajendra Singh Rathore said.

Ms. Raje’s supporters claim to have 62 of the 78 party MLAs on their side.

More In: National | News