Amidst the brewing factionalism in the state unit of BJP in Rajasthan, Union home affair minister Amit Shah’s visit gives two messages - an attempt to reunite the party factions and reassuring that the collective leadership is bigger than any individual.
Ahead of the assembly elections due after two years, while addressing the 'Janpratinidhi Sankalp Sammelan' in Jaipur on Sunday, Shah not only exuded confidence that the BJP will win the 2023 assembly elections in Rajasthan with a two-thirds majority but also made it clear there will be no chief ministerial face for the 2023 state elections.
“An individual can never be equal to an organization and everyone has to understand this,” said Shah at the BJP’s state working committee meeting. Shah told the party to stand united and start preparations for Mission 2023 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the party insiders, Shah’s focus on collective leadership is being seen as a message to the former chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s loyalist camp, who has been demanding to announce her name as the chief minister candidate in 2023 assembly polls. Incidentally the meeting Shah's visit happened two days after Vasundhara Raje's concluded her four days 'Dev Darshan' (religious tour) which the party's state unit saw it as a show of strength.
“Amit Shah has not sidelined any leader in Rajasthan. Even on the dais, he was seen sitting with leaders from both factions. But he made one thing clear that the party is bigger than any individual leader. In a way it’s a message to both state president Satish Poonia as well as the BJP leader Vasundhara Raje’s camps”, a senior BJP leader who attended the meeting told Outlook.
In Shah’s meeting right from BJP sarpanch to a member parliament, everyone was seen participating. Even at the airport, several bigwigs, including former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Union minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, Satish Poonia were present. Whereas the Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was accompanying Shah as he reached Jaipur from Jaisalmer.
Another leader who attended the meeting said, “This was a much-needed meeting as the party has been divided into two groups. One backed by RSS supporters are supporting state president Satish Poonia whereas the other group is supporting Raje. Both wanted their candidates to be announced as the CM face in upcoming polls’
“Shah not only asked us to stand united but also indicated has factionalism has resulted in a loss to the party in the recent by-polls held in October”, he added.
Since the 2018 Assembly elections, a total of seven Assembly bypolls have been held in Rajasthan for the seats – Mandawa, Khinwsar, Sujangarh, Sahara, Rajsamand, Vallabhnagar and Dhariyawad. Of the seven bypolls, the BJP has won only one seat, in Rajsamand. Whereas the remaining five seats were won by Congress, with the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) winning one in Khinwsar.
Torn between leadership struggle
Torn between a leadership struggle involving Raje and the state BJP leadership, the party witnessed the loss recently. The party presented Satish Poonia in a tweet termed the defeat as 'natural' and held local equations and issues responsible for the losses.
"Amit Shah is not the first leader to have told the party to focus on uniting in September, during the Chintan Shivir held at Kumbhalgarh, the party’s national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santosh had issued a warning to leaders to concentrate on strengthening the party and reducing factionalism", a former minister and senior BJP leader told Outlook.
In the Rajasthan Bharatiya Janta Party, the infighting between the Vasundhara Raje faction and the state Rajasthan president Satish Poonia is an open secret. The in-fighting in the Rajasthan BJP dates back to the 2018 assembly elections. After losing the elections, Raje was sidelined by the central leadership. In June this year, BJP Rajasthan in charge of Arun Singh had warned party leaders that strict action would be taken against those trying to create factions in the party.
For over a year the state BJP leadership has been alleging Raje to be running a ‘parallel system’ in the state with a focus on herself instead of the party. This even includes Covid welfare initiatives, for which she reached out to many during the second wave. The supporters of Vasundhara Raje are openly demanding that the party project her as the Chief Ministerial candidate for the 2023 elections. In August this year, her supporters inaugurated a office in Jaipur that fueled many rumours.
BJP will not topple but will come to power in 2023
Shah who was on a two-day visit to Rajasthan said that the BJP ruled out the Congress’ accusations of BJP toppling the government. "Gehlot is always afraid that his government will fall. BJP will not topple his government, but it will come to power in the state with a thumping majority in 2023 assembly polls”.
Further lashing out at the Congress party he added, “The useless and corrupt Ashok Gehlot government must be rooted out in time from Rajasthan and the BJP should govern.
“I am again saying on record that Congress instead of doing 'Gareebi Hataao', did 'Gareeb Hataao'. Whereas the BJP has provided more than 11 crores toilets, two crore homes, gas cylinders and 13 crore homes”, alleged Shah.
Shah also alleged that the Gehlot government has shuttered many welfare programmes of the previous Vasundhara Raje government and is creating obstacles in the implementation of central schemes.
The BJP on Saturday had passed a political resolution and accused the state government of being responsible for the deteriorating law and order situation.