New Delhi, August 26
The BJP’s dilemma in respect of Vasundhara Raje’s role in the upcoming Rajasthan elections is deepening with each passing day, especially on the back of the ruling Congress rehabilitating top rebel Sachin Pilot on poll eve.
Raje cannot be ignored is what some top BJP leaders are saying with one source noting that the question of the party projecting a chief ministerial face in the state doesn’t appear “closed yet.”
THE GUJJAR FACTOR
- Gujjars hold sway in over 35 Assembly seats in Rajasthan
- Dominate 12 districts —Tonk, Bharatpur, Karauli, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Dausa, Dhaulpur, Kota, Bhilwara, Bundi, Ajmer and Jhunjhunu
- In 2018, eight Gujjars won Assembly poll — 7 from the Congress and one from BSP, which later merged with Congress
The thinking could be part of BJP’s course correction after suffering in Karnataka where it replaced Lingayat strongman and CM BS Yediyurappa with Basavaraj Bommai and paid massive electoral costs.
Post Karnataka, the BJP has decided not to rile Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan who has been in the seat since 2005. In Rajasthan too the BJP is thinking hard on strategies even though collective leadership — comprising ex state chief Satish Poonia, union ministers Gajendra Shekhawat, Arjun Meghwal and Ashwini Vaishnaw — appears a convenient option.
But is it a winning option is the question which has become more pronounced since the Congress, in damage control exercise, installed Sachin Pilot, a tall Gujjar leader, in the party’s working committee and signalled solidarity with the community that can sway results in 35 of the state’s 200 seats. In 2018, when Pilot was Rajasthan unit chief, Gujjars voted en bloc for the Congress deserting the BJP, their traditional preference. But when Pilot was jutted out of the CM race in favour of Ashok Gehlot, Gujjars felt betrayed. Whether they will forgive the Congress after Pilot’s rehabilitation is unknown.
In 2018, all nine Gujjar candidates the BJP fielded lost. The Congress fielded 12 and seven won. In fact out of eight Gujjars who won, seven were from the Congress and one from the BSP which later merged with the Congress. With Pilot placated, the BJP is back on the drawing board in Rajasthan aware that the Gujjar vote can make or mar the election. The BJP now appears under pressure to find a balance for warding off the Pilot-Gujjar challenge. Conscious of Raje’s popularity (her private rallies are sometimes better attended than BJP’s official events) and her large following, the BJP may well have to revisit the CM face question. It is aware of the costs of sidelining regional titans.
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