Jaipur: The brewing infighting within the ranks of the Rajasthan’s Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has come out in the open with loyalists of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje and current state unit chief Satish Poonia publicly criticising each other.
Last month, an attempt by Raje loyalists to launch a forum to exert pressure on the party leadership to project her as a chief ministerial candidate for the next assembly polls was countered by Poonia’s camp with a similar forum. Given that the next assembly elections are almost two years away, in December 2023, the internal party feud is seen by many as costing the party’s image among people.
Later, when Raje missed a crucial core committee meeting of the party, headed by Poonia, it played into the hands of rumour mills that there is a possible rivalry between the two.
Adding to this, Raje’s loyalists have now issued a press release holding the current party leadership in the state responsible for the party’s loss in the recently concluded local body polls. Though the press statement did not name Poonia specifically, it referred to him as a “particular person”.
Chhabra MLA, Pratap Singh Singhvi, and former MLAs Prahlad Gunjal, Bhawani Rajawat, Vidya Shankar and Babulal Verma, in a statement issued on February 8, wrote, “On the directions of a ‘vyakti vishesh’ (particular person), the state unit has caused massive loss to BJP’s stronghold in Rajasthan’s Hadoti. If things do not change, nobody will be able to save the party’s boat from sinking.”
“Upon the instructions of a particular person, people who didn’t have any connection on the ground were made election in-charges and tickets were distributed. It is because of all this that such a situation has arisen,” the statement added.
The matters further worsened on Tuesday after party leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kirori Lal Meena, a staunch Raje critic, spoke on the issue.
Meena rubbished the infighting reports calling them “wrong” and “misleading”.
“Neither Raje is being sidelined nor is she going anywhere herself,” he said.
However, on being asked if Raje is the most accepted leader of the party in the state, Meena replied, “Raje has held various important posts of the organisation, including the chief ministerial post in the state twice, and there is no question of her being sidelined.”
Raje presses ahead
Meanwhile, it is rumoured that Raje is likely to announce a yatra (rally) in March to assert herself in the state politics and her loyalists are preparing the ground for it.
“March 8 is madam’s birthday and she is going to make a big announcement,” a Raje’s loyalist told The Wire on the condition of anonymity.
Despite the fact that there are nearly two more years left for the assembly polls, Raje camp’s moves are indicative of her insecurities in the party, perhaps, with the growing influence of Poonia over the party.
Her loyalists see Poonia as being unfavourable to Raje. In the past few years, he has overseen and allowed appointments of Raje’s detractors in key positions of the party.
Those in the BJP feel that after Raje, Poonia is now trying to sideline former home minister and the leader of opposition Gulab Chand Kataria. Kataria is seen as number two in terms of seniority in BJP’s Rajasthan unit, after Raje.
According to sources, the names recommended by Kataria from his turf Udaipur for the party’s executive board have not been included. On the other hand, party workers from adjoining districts of Dungarpur and Banswara, of Poonia camp, have made to the board.
Similarly, for the BJP’s youth division, the names of party workers from Udaipur suggested by Kataria have also been ignored. Sources say that he has recommended Gajendra Bhandari and Chandrasekhar Joshi but in vain. However, Poonia’s aide Kuldeep Sharma from Udaipur has been included in the state executive.
All of this is being seen within the ranks of BJP as Poonia’s attempt to sideline his rivals ahead of the 2023 assembly elections in the state.
The recent developments in the BJP state executive are leading to friction among senior leaders, and many of them have already “alerted” the party high command in Delhi of the goings-on.