Sunny Sebastian

Credibility of Advani, Raje restored

In contrast to the previous executive meeting this meet saw full attendance

Mathur made sure that his affiliates in the party too got prominence this time

JAIPUR: The two-day meeting of the State executive committee of the Bharatiya Janata Party which ended here earlier this week found the ruling party in Rajasthan once again in order after its various warring factions seemingly agreed to bury the hatchet. The meeting restored the credibility and authority of many, including that of the senior leader L. K. Advani and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

In contrast to the full attendance this time, the previous executive meeting, held in the temple town of Sanwaliaji in Chittaurgarh six months ago, was boycotted by more than half a dozen ministers and two former State presidents who were demanding removal of Mahesh Sharma, the then party president and a protégé of Ms. Raje.

They dared to boycott Mr. Advani who addressed the meeting. State Home Minister G. C. Kataria, who was present in his home town Udaipur at that time, did not even care to receive Mr. Advani at the airport.

It is not certain whether the approaching elections in the State did the trick but under the new State unit president Omprakash Mathur things appeared to be in order. Unlike the experience in the past with organisational meetings, this time it was not a Raje show altogether with Mr. Mathur making sure that his affiliates in the party too got prominence.

Ms. Raje, all the more in need of the party cadres, too was found to be accommodative. She attended the meeting on both the days and shared the dais even with her known critics such as Jaswant Singh, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

As for Mr. Advani, who got into a reverie often speaking on his autobiographical book, it was coming home among the admirers—for the first time after being anointed by the party as the Prime Minister-in-waiting. However, he scared the sitting MLAs out of their wits in his inaugural address by hinting that Rajasthan too would have a Gujarat pattern in ticket distribution as anti-incumbency mostly worked in the case of elected representatives and not with the governments.

‘Justice will be done’

Even the hospitality of the Maheshwari community at the meeting venue failed to cheer the 120-odd sitting MLAs thereafter. Mr. Advani had told the MLAs to go for introspection and opt out of the race if they fond themselves not in a winning position. It was for Venkaiah Naidu, the newly appointed election in-charge for the State, to salvage the “great depression” by pointing out that “justice” would be done to all while choosing the candidates. The popularity of the individual MLAs, performance, rapport with the public and loyalty with the party would be taken into account, he assured them.

But the arrival of Mr. Naidu in the State itself seemingly led to creation of some bad blood as Gopinath Munde, the party general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, did not attend the meeting. The absence of Mr. Munde, who was also scheduled to address a press conference on the first day, was attributed to his preoccupation with the Maharashtra Assembly session. The party has not so far made it known whether Mr. Munde would continue to be here.

The meeting identified issues such as the failures of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre—price rise, crisis on the farm front, terrorism and policy of appeasement—as issues for the Assembly polls, scheduled later during the year, and the Lok Sabha elections later. In his presidential address, Mr. Mathur even made use of the Left vocabulary to say that “the gap between the rich and the poor” had widened during the UPA regime as never before.

The meeting was an attempt to restore the confidence of the party worker. The leaders were asked to listen to the grievances of the workers and give utmost importance to them. The meeting put a moratorium on complaints from the party men saying that they would be addressed only after the elections.