Former Rajasthan Chief Minister’s defiance will only add to the BJP’s woes

Though under increasing pressure to step down as Leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly, former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is unlikely to give up without a fight.

Even as her camp followers in the party here on Thursday continued to maintain that Ms. Raje was yet to get any official intimation from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national leadership asking her to step down, MLAs supporting her started trooping in at her Civil Lines residence right from morning to offer support.

Ms. Raje was not available for comments but her lieutenants in the party said in case of need they would go to Delhi taking with them the party MLAs.

Ms. Raje’s defiance would only add to the BJP’s woes at national level as she is considered closer to the party’s senior leader L. K. Advani. There could be some parallel in her staying on in the State Assembly as the Legislature Party leader with that of Mr. Advani continuing as the Leader of the Parliamentary Party in the Lok Sabha.

The newly-appointed State BJP president Arun Chaturvedi was back in Jaipur from Delhi on Wednesday night. Though in the know of things about the Central leadership’s decision to replace Ms. Raje as the Leader of the Opposition, he refused to comment. Mr. Chaturvedi said changes were on the anvil but declined to talk about the developments around Ms. Raje.

Initially there were reports that on Thursday there would be an official announcement about the party leadership’s decision asking Ms. Raje to make way for a new person as the Leader of the Opposition. However, till evening this did not happen reportedly because Mr. Rajnath Singh was away in Varanasi and is expected to be back in Delhi on Friday. The Central leadership of the BJP two days ago reportedly decided to remove Ms. Raje with the argument that since Om Prakash Mathur, the then State party president who led the party in both the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections along with her, had quit owning up responsibility for the poor show in both the elections, she too should follow suit.

On his return from Delhi, it seemed Mr. Arun Chaturvedi has hardened his stand against Ms. Raje. He was in Delhi to meet Mr. Singh to apprise him of the latest upheaval in the State unit against Ms. Raje which was precipitated after her fight with other senior party leaders, including former State unit president Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi, during a meeting here last Sunday.

Till Thursday evening both groups were cautiously watching each other’s movements but it seemed the Raje camp was more open in its attempts at a show of strength. Out of the 78 MLAs the party has in the State Assembly, the Raje faction claimed the support of over 40. As a group of 20-22 MLAs appear to be in the undecided category, Ms. Raje’s political opponents have expressed apprehensions over attempts at herding the MLAs by her for a head-count in Delhi.

Keywords: Vasundhara Raje