A breather for Rajasthan BJP chief

Special Correspondent

Party dissidents’ efforts come to a naught

Those boycotted earlier meetings come back

JAIPUR: Rajasthan BJP president Mahesh Sharma seemingly has survived a major offensive against him from those opposed to Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the State. The dissidents, led by two former State party presidents Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi and Raghuveer Kaushal and supported by at least three Cabinet Ministers, were in Delhi last week during the meeting of the Parliamentary Board and the core committee of the party in what they called the “final assault” against Dr. Sharma.

Their efforts have come to naught, at least for the time being. Coming out from the brink, Dr. Sharma presided over a meeting of the state office-bearers at the party office here on Monday. The meeting, held to discuss preparations for the rally scheduled here for December 8 to mark the fourth anniversary of the BJP-led government in the State, was attended by many of the functionaries who had dared to boycott the State executive meeting addressed by senior leader L. K. Advani at Sanwaliaji in Chittorgarh last month.

Ms. Raje’s firm stand, including a threat to step down from the Chief Minister’s post, seemingly helped Dr. Sharma -- who was being targeted for his proximity to her -- to escape the axe. The dissidents, who failed to project a single leader as an alternative to the present incumbent could not provide a convincing reply to Mr. Advani when he asked them to be specific in their charges against Dr. Sharma.

The developments in Delhi had followed the dissident group’s faux pas in senior leader Jaswant Singh’s ancestral village Jassol in Barmer district on October 31 when they were spotted consuming a potion allegedly laced with opium as part of a local tradition.

A good number of party functionaries and almost all Cabinet Ministers also reportedly attended a joint meeting of the office-bearers and the members of the State Cabinet at the official residence of the Chief Minister on Monday evening. Ironically, Ms. Raje was absent at the meeting. The possible explanation for her absence is her indisposition.

One indication of the continued defiant stand by the dissident group has been the absenting of Ghanshyam Tiwari, Education Minister, from a function attended by Mr. Advani in Malsisar town of Jhunjhunu district on Saturday. Mr. Tiwari, who was to preside over the function, did not turn up.

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