New Delhi: After a series of defeats in by-elections and local body polls, the BJP in Rajasthan may be increasingly relying on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to garner votes in the build-up to the Assembly elections later this year.
Vasundhara Raje in her stint as the Chief Minister has seldom shared dais with Prime Minister Modi in political rallies. But all that will soon change beginning Thursday afternoon when the Prime Minister visits Jhunjhunu on International Women's Day.
Despite being one of the most backward districts, Juhunjhunu has shown exemplary results in encouraging women's education is part of the Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao campaign.
Raje, reports said, personally oversaw preparations for Modi’s first visit to the state since the bypoll loss. Everything from seating arrangements and parking facilities to drinking water availability has to be perfect, she reportedly told officials. She even visited the landing strip where the Prime Minister is scheduled to land, to check if everything was in order.
Since the bypoll loss in Ajmer, Alwar and Mandalgarh, Raje has come under fire within the state unit of the party over the last one month.
First, the Kota district unit of the BJP was in an open split over whether or not the state should continue under her leadership. Ashok Chuadhary, President of the BJP’s OBC (Other Backward Castes) wing in Kota district, had written a letter to party president Amit Shah demanding a change in leadership.
Days after Chaudhary’s letter bomb, Raje loyalist and Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria was cornered by BJP MLAs in the Assembly over deteriorating law and order situation. The first to open fire against his own Home Minister was Babu Singh Rathore, BJP MLA from Jodhpur’s Shergarh, who raised the issue of a caste-conflict that broke out in Jodhpur’s Samrau village in January.
Rathore hit out at Rajasthan Police for failing to protect citizens and said, “Of what use are police officers who do not protect citizens? If the police is unable to protect the people, you (the government) should ensure that citizens get gun licences so that at least they can take up arms to protect themselves and their families!”
Talking about rampant illegal mining in Alwar, BJP MLA Gyandev Ahuja claimed the Alwar Superintendent of Police (SP) was “autocratic and corrupt” as he was taking bribes from every police station in the district and, in turn, allowing illegal mining to continue.
While sources say that Raje plans to make amends, the Congress has smelled blood. WhatsApp forwards and social media messages in Rajasthan liberally use the word ‘Maharani (Queen)’ to refer to Raje as a ruler far removed from the lives of ordinary citizens.
Keen to break the image, Raje who won a two-thirds majority in the last Assembly polls, is also working to remove the “elitist” tag, beginning with the major sops announced in her state budget speech last month. “Farmers who have taken loans up to Rs 50,000 from cooperative banks till September 2017 will get a full loan waiver,” she said.
She went on to announce several sops for farmers, such as 7 lakh new power connections in rural areas. Raje further declared the setting up of an Agricultural University in Alwar District, where the BJP lost the bypolls earlier this month. The wages of aanganwadi workers was also raised Rs 6,000 per month.
In addition to the loan waiver, the state budget’s other major focus was road connectivity for remote areas, particularly those in Western Rajasthan. As Raje promised to resolve the drinking water crisis, she announced that the government will ensure access to pure drinking water in 27 districts. In another major announcement, Raje said that people over the age of 80 will be able to travel for free on Rajasthan Roadways busses.
As the Congress readies its battle plans for the crucial Assembly election test later this year, Raje, too, has planned damage control measures of her own.