Special Correspondent

Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje was missing among the stream of dignitaries and political leaders who thronged Raj Bhavan here on Friday to greet Governor Pratibha Patil on her selection as the UPA-Left nominee for the post of President. The next-door neighbour on Civil Lines did not turn up in person to congratulate her though sources said Ms. Raje had spoken to Ms. Patil on phone after the announcement of her name.

The first day's callers included former Chief Ministers Shiv Charan Mathur and Jagannath Pahadia, Pradesh Congress Committee president B.D. Kalla, Rajasthan Minister of State for Tourism Usha Punia, a large number of Congress MLAs, and representatives of women's groups and religious congregations.

Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot in a statement hailed Ms. Patil's nomination as a "definite step" towards women's empowerment. He thanked UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for the choice.

The obvious reason for Ms. Raje's diffidence over the matter is the candidature of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat as the nominee of the National Democratic Alliance against Ms. Patil. While in Delhi recently Ms. Raje had reportedly campaigned vigorously for his nomination by the NDA.

As such, Ms. Raje and Ms. Patil have a very cordial working relationship much to the envy of the Congress leaders in the State. Ms. Raje's knowledge of Marathi and her family's association with Maharashtra also helped cement the ties.

The latest occasion on which Ms. Patil played a positive role in her gubernatorial position was during the Gujjar agitation a fortnight ago when things appeared to be getting out of control in the State. According to sources, Ms. Patil kept the Centre's role as limited as possible while advising Ms. Raje to go in for a dialogue with the Gujjar leaders to find a solution.

Perhaps the only major instance of differences between the State Government and Raj Bhavan was over the Religious Freedom Bill 2006, passed by the Rajasthan Assembly in April that year. Ms. Patil returned the Bill to the State Government without giving ascent to it in June last year. Though she received flak from the leaders of the Hindu front organization for her refusal, the very act now seemingly worked in her favour with the Left parties.

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