Kataria: yatra was aimed at generating awareness about Congress ‘misrule'

Supporters of BJP leader Vasundhara Raje on Sunday demanded that the party declare her the chief ministerial candidate for next year's Assembly elections in Rajasthan to remove scope for any misgivings.

Earlier, 54 of the 79 party MLAs in Rajasthan offered to quit in her support.

Ms. Raje was upset with State party leader Gulabchand Kataria announcing a yatra.

The legislators who came out openly in Ms. Raje's support included her trusted loyalists Kaliacharan Saraf, Bhawani Singh Rajawat, Digambar Singh, Gyandeo Ahuja, Mohanlal Gupta and Ashok Parnami.

Demonstrations were held in her support in several district towns such as Kota, Ajmer and Chittorgarh.

The dramatic developments throughout the day kept the political observers bemused. It was clear that despite the BJP officially denying any kind of rift, Ms. Raje wanted to make the national leadership as well as a section of the parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, notice her influence within the party.

When Ms. Raje left a core committee meeting in a huff on Saturday, Mr. Kataria announced cancellation of his programme, saying he did not want to make it an ego issue and “as a disciplined soldier, I would withdraw the plan rather than allowing a showdown.”

There were signs of softening in the stance of Ms. Raje as well, when she told reporters at her residence on Sunday noon that the so-called contentious issue was “an internal matter of [the] party.” “It is our party's internal matter and we are going to resolve it,” she said.

This is the second time in the past three years that Ms. Raje has been seen challenging the party high command to find her alternative in the desert State. The BJP leadership had asked her to resign as Leader of the Opposition in September 2009 following the party's defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. She was later reinstated.

Mr. Kataria, who was the Home Minister in the previous BJP government headed by Mr. Raje, arrived in his home constituency, Udaipur, on Sunday after the unseemly episode. He said the 28-day yatra was aimed at generating public awareness about the “misrule” of the Congress and preparing the ground for the Assembly elections.

He said he had planned the march in consultation with the State party leadership with the desire to strengthen the BJP in Mewar districts. “I never intended to make it an ego issue and promptly cancelled it when serious differences emerged within the party.”